Lions shift their fo­cus to the Hur­ri­canes

Ack­er­mann’s men be­lieve Sharks match was a per­fect trial run ahead of clash with Canes who play ‘in your face’ rugby

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

NOW for the Hur­ri­canes ... the only New Zealand team the Lions failed to beat last sea­son, home and away.

The men from Welling­ton are also the last team to have beaten the Lions at home in Su­per Rugby, a 50-17 win on April 30 last year. The Canes ham­mered the Lions that day, but it turned the Lions’ sea­son around as they won their next six games at El­lis Park, in­clud­ing beat­ing the Cru­saders and High­landers in the quar­ter-fi­nals and semi­fi­nals, and go into this Satur­day’s semi-fi­nal hav­ing not lost a fur­ther eight games on home soil this year.

The Lions’ nar­row quar­ter-fi­nal win against the Sharks on Satur­day (23-21) has en­sured they will also face the team that beat them in the Welling­ton fi­nal last sea­son, the Canes get­ting past the Brumbies on Fri­day for a place in the last four.

They will be the first New Zealand op­po­si­tion the Lions will face this sea­son af­ter be­ing drawn to only play against the Aus­tralian teams.

Last sea­son, how­ever, the Lions got the bet­ter of all the Ki­wis sides bar the Hur­ri­canes, but coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann feels his side have had the per­fect tune-up for the clash in fac­ing the Sharks this last week­end.

“The Hur­ri­canes are a team that play in your face ... and that’s what the Sharks were very good at to­day (Satur­day), so it was like a trial for us,” said the Lions boss.

He added he’d learned a lot about their semi-fi­nal op­po­nents since last year’s meet­ings. “They like to put teams un­der pres­sure and they did that to us last year, so hope­fully we’ll han­dle that pres­sure bet­ter this time,” he said.

“Maybe we won’t run as much as we did a year ago, but rather kick bet­ter tac­ti­cally. We must also re­mem­ber it’s a year later and the teams have changed since we last met here. We’ll do our home­work and then pre­pare ac­cord­ingly.” Lions skip­per Jaco Kriel,

also felt the Sharks’ in-your-face ap­proach on Satur­day was ex­actly what his team needed be­fore the semi-fi­nals.

“We didn’t want it to be easy (against the Sharks) and it wasn’t.

“It’s in hard games like these that you learn the most, where char­ac­ter comes to the fore,” he said.

Ack­er­mann added he wanted his play­ers to stick to the at­tack­ing style of rugby that has got them to this point in the com­pe­ti­tion, de­spite be­ing “caught out” twice in two weeks by the Sharks, who scored tries off er­rors made deep in Lions ter­ri­tory.

“Our plan is the right way,” said Ack­er­mann.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with that ... and there’s place for am­bi­tion, but we just need to be more ac­cu­rate and make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

“We shouldn’t have tried fancy passes in­side our 22 me­tre area (which led to Kobus van Wyk scor­ing an easy try on Satur­day) ... rather Lionel (Mapoe) or El­ton (Jan­tjies) should have taken the ball up. Also, hope­fully our passes will stick this com­ing week­end and the ball will bounce right.

“It re­ally is only about de­ci­sion-mak­ing and ac­cu­racy ... there’s noth­ing wrong with our plan.”

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