Lions will stick to at­tack­ing plan


THE CAP­TAINS: Jaco Kriel and Phillip van der Walt. THERE is a lot more on the line to­mor­row – and pos­si­bly in the com­ing weeks, too – than has been the case up to now, but the Lions will stick to their at­tack-from-all-parts game that has got them into the Super Rugby play-offs for the sec­ond year run­ning.

Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s men will host the Sharks at El­lis Park to­mor­row for a place in the semi-fi­nals; the win­ner go­ing through to meet either the Hur­ri­canes or Brumbies, who meet in Can­berra early to­mor­row. It is the third meet­ing be­tween the Lions and Sharks this sea­son, the last com­ing just last Satur­day when Ack­er­mann’s men won 27-10 in Dur­ban.

The Lions are the hot favourites to progress af­ter also beat­ing Robert du Preez’s team in Joburg in the round-robin stage and be­cause they’re play­ing at home, but there will cer­tainly be more pres­sure on the hosts to­mor­row than at any stage of the sea­son. So will that mean a change in ap­proach per­haps from the Lions, who’ll be des­per­ate to make up for los­ing the fi­nal last year?

“We’ve done the hard part in the sense we’re at home for as long as we stay in the com­pe­ti­tion so at least we know there’s no travel fac­tor this year,” said Ack­er­mann yes­ter­day.

“Also we can just about bank on the weather be­ing good and the sur­face be­ing dry ... and that means we can stick to the type of rugby that has brought us to this point. We like play­ing a cer­tain way and chang­ing now would do us no good. The recipe (of run­ning the ball and look­ing to score tries) has worked for us and the play­ers are com­fort­able with it so we’ll keep at it.

“My play­ers are like race horses ... they’ve been groomed and drilled to play a cer­tain way and it would be un­fair on them if I asked them to change now. I want them to play with free­dom, with in­ten­sity and ac­cu­racy, from the first minute.”

The Lions have been a try-ma­chine this sea­son, dot­ting down 81 times so far, and be­sides their abil­ity to score from any­where on the field they’ll also hold an­other ad­van­tage over the Sharks: they know what it’s like to be in­volved in knock­out rugby.

Ack­er­mann has stuck with the same team that did duty against the Sharks last week.

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