Lions need Ro­han to get game time

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

THE sooner Ro­han Janse van Rens­burg gets up to Su­per Rugby speed, the bet­ter for the Lions, ac­cord­ing to coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann.

The pow­er­fully built cen­tre will fea­ture for the Lions for the first time in three months after re­cently re­cov­er­ing from a knee in­jury when he plays off the bench against the Sharks in Dur­ban to­mor­row. It is the Lions’ last game be­fore they en­ter the knock­out rounds, start­ing with a quar­ter-fi­nal at home next week­end, and Ack­er­mann is des­per­ate to have a player of Janse van Rens­burg’s qual­ity avail­able for those games.

The 22-year-old was in stun­ning form be­fore suf­fer­ing in­jury against the Storm­ers on April 16 and while he has only played for 20 min­utes in the Golden Lions’ loss against Gri­quas in the Su­perS­port Chal­lenge match last Sun­day, Ack­er­mann wants him to get into shape as quickly as pos­si­ble, hence his se­lec­tion to be part of the squad that trav­els to Dur­ban to­day.

“We all know what great form Ro­han was in be­fore his in­jury, so, while it’s tough on Jac­ques Nel to miss out ... he filled in bril­liantly for us in Ro­han’s ab­sence ... Ro­han has got the X-fac­tor,” Ack­er­mann said yes­ter­day. “He had 20 min­utes last week, but we need to get him more game time be­fore the play­offs.”

What­ever hap­pens in Dur­ban to­mor­row, the Lions will host a quar­ter-fi­nal next week­end – ei­ther against the Sharks or High­landers.

A win for the Lions though, and a de­feat for the hith­erto un­beaten Cru­saders against the Hur­ri­canes in Welling­ton ear­lier to­mor­row, will mean Ack­er­mann’s men will fin­ish on top of the over­all Su­per Rugby stand­ings, guar­an­tee­ing them a home match in ev­ery play­off game for as long as they stay in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Ack­er­mann said it mat­tered lit­tle to him and the play­ers what hap­pens in Welling­ton. “We’ve done the job to get a home quar­ter-fi­nal, so in that sense the pres­sure is off us,” he said. “But we’re not go­ing to look be­yond that ... our fo­cus is on the Sharks and pro­duc­ing a qual­ity per­for­mance after our bye so we go into the quar­ters with some good mo­men­tum be­hind us. The Sharks are a qual­ity side who pushed us hard when they came to Emi­rates Air­line Park ear­lier this year (the Lions won 34-29). It’s go­ing to be good for us to have a real pres­sure-filled game ahead of the play­offs.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, Ack­er­mann has picked his strong­est team for the trip to Dur­ban. The squad in­cludes no less than 12 Spring­boks, in­clud­ing Janse van Rens­burg on the bench, with Ruan Ack­er­mann hang­ing onto the No 8 jersey in reg­u­lar skip­per War­ren White­ley’s ab­sence. Jaco Kriel will again lead the side.

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