Lions set to stick to what they do best


WHETHER top spot is on the line or not, the Lions will play the same kind of rugby their fans have come to ex­pect from them over the last two sea­sons.

That was the mes­sage of coach Johan Ack­er­mann yes­ter­day ahead of his team’s fi­nal round-robin match against the Sharks in Durban on Satur­day.

When the Lions kick­off against the Sharks, they will know whether they have a chance of top­ping the over­all stand­ings, or not, which would give them the best chance of win­ning the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion. Ear­lier in the day on Satur­day the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, the Hurricanes, host the un­beaten Cru­saders in Welling­ton, where a win for the men from Christchurch will guar­an­tee them the over­all top spot and a home game in ev­ery play-off match.

A win for the Hurricanes though, will mean the Lions can over­take the Cru­saders and fin­ish top over­all and give them a home fi­nal, should they progress that far. As things stand be­fore the week­end’s matches, the Cru­saders have won 14 from 14 for 63 points, while the Lions have won 13 from 14 for 61 points. Both teams are al­ready guar­an­teed of host­ing a quar­ter-fi­nal and pos­si­ble semi-fi­nal.

Ack­er­mann said yes­ter­day that the out­come of the match in Welling­ton would have no bear­ing on how his team will ap­proach their match in Durban.

“Ob­vi­ously we’re go­ing to be play­ing for top spot or not ... but it’s go­ing to have no im­pact on how we ap­proach the game,” he said yes­ter­day.

“What we want out of the game, re­gard­less of the re­sult in Welling­ton, is to get back into a rhythm and get some mo­men­tum be­hind us af­ter our bye last week­end. Also, we have to click into gear ahead of the play­offs, and that is far more im­por­tant to us. We’ve got a quar­ter-fi­nal to think about be­fore any­thing else.”

Ack­er­mann said he would chal­lenge his play­ers to lift the in­ten­sity of their game fol­low­ing their week off. “We have our own stan­dards we need to main­tain ... and the Sharks will hope­fully pro­vide us with an op­por­tu­nity to get to where we want to be,” Ack­er­mann said.

“They’re the per­fect kind of team to face be­fore the knock­out rounds. It’s go­ing to be a hard game, they’re a tough team to play against, so it’ll give the play­ers a chance to get their bod­ies into ac­tion again but also al­low us to get our game plan work­ing nicely.

“The Sharks are big and strong and re­ally phys­i­cal, every­thing we need be­fore the play­offs. Sure, they’ve been a lit­tle in­con­sis­tent this year, but they pushed us close the last time we met (at El­lis Park when the Lions won 34-29) and they’ll also want a big ef­fort ahead of their play­off game next week. I just want my guys to put in a big per­for­mance that will give them be­lief and mo­men­tum ahead of next week’s play­off.”

Ack­er­mann ad­mit­ted that he would not eas­ily change the make-up of the side that did duty against the Sun­wolves two weeks ago, mean­ing Rohan Janse van Rens­burg, Jaco van der Walt and Rob­bie Coet­zee, would have to wait an­other week, or two, be­fore re­turn­ing to the match­day squad.

“I’ll look at them in train­ing and then make a call, de­cide who of them will add some­thing unique to the squad,” said Ack­er­mann.

“They’re all qual­ity play­ers who pro­duced some qual­ity per­for­mances be­fore they got in­jured (or sus­pended in Coet­zee’s case), but I’m also not go­ing to change for the sake of change. I want to re­ward the guys who’ve brought us here and who have per­formed well in re­cent weeks.”

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