JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Home advantage plays a significant role in the latter stages of Super Rugby playoffs, Lions coach Swys de Bruin said as his side prepares to host the New South Wales Waratahs in the semi-finals in Johannesburg on Saturday.
"It's enormous to play at home. Your chance of winning increases significantly," de Bruin told Johannesburg's Beeld newspaper as South Africa's Lions look to reach the final for the third successive year.
They will also be hoping that Wellington Hurricanes overcome the Canterbury Crusaders in Saturday's other semifinal in New Zealand.
The Crusaders, the defending champions, finished top of the overall standings and will have home ground advantage if they reach the final. However, if the Hurricanes triumph then the decider will be at Ellis Park for a second year in a row.
"Maybe I should send Boydie (Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd) a message of encouragement to go and beat the Crusaders in Christchurch. The two of us worked together at the Sharks academy and I know him well."
De Bruin praised his team's progress to the final four in the annual southern African competition. "We played a great deal of our season without our spine."
Lions captain Warren Whiteley, hooker Malcolm Marx, flanker Jaco Kriel, scrumhalf Ross Cronje and wingers Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan were all sidelined for significant spells during this year's campaign.
"Without these dependable players you can understand why things did not always go to plan. But those who came in their place did much more than was expected of them and (it) showed the depth in our union that we are still able to win the South African conference and find ourselves again in the semi-finals."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Jon Boyle)