Will the Li­ons sim­ply pick up where they left off?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

for the Li­ons.

Their re­main­ing games are against the Sharks to­day ( home), Kings ( home) and Jaguares (away) – three fix­tures they’ll be­lieve they should win, but the in­ter­na­tional break means the re­set but­ton has been pushed.

No one quite knows how the teams will re­act to the month-long in­ter­val; how will their in­ac­tiv­ity af­fect rhythm and un­der­stand­ing, flu­ency and mo­men­tum?

Now there’s a chance the Sharks will be­lieve they can head to El­lis Park and pull off a win. Be­fore the break, no one would have given Gary Gold’s men a chance even though they, too, were on some­thing of a roll. They had a bye be­fore the break, but had pre­vi­ously beaten the Kings (53-0), Jaguares (25-22, away) and Hur­ri­canes (32-15).

And it’s some­thing that the Li­ons are well aware of. “The Sharks are des­per­ate,” said Ack­er­mann. “They need to win ev­ery game now to give them­selves a chance (of mak­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals) so it’s go­ing to be a mas­sive fight.

“These next three games are po­ten­tially go­ing to play a big role on how the teams fin­ish the sea­son. So for a team like the Sharks, who’re in a must- win sit­u­a­tion, there may be a change in style in the com­ing weeks. Where teams played with a more ‘open­ness’ be­fore the break, they may be more closed now.

“Of course the time away from Su­per Rugby is likely to in­flu­ence all the teams’ flu­ency and rhythm this week­end, so it’s go­ing to be big for all the teams. I know we’re go­ing to have to be switched on from the first minute. The Sharks are a qual­ity side, with lots of ex­pe­ri­ence, and we’re ex­pect­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing from them.”

While the vis­i­tors are with­out cap­tain and fly­half Pat Lam­bie, the Li­ons are also miss­ing their skip­per War­ren White­ley – two men who would oth­er­wise play a ma­jor role in the out­come of what is ex­pected to be a thrilling en­counter.

Lam­bie’s re­place­ment Garth April will face off with El­ton Jan­tjies, who’ll be pumped up after a solid show­ing for the Spring­boks in the the se­ries win over Ire­land.

Deputis­ing for White­ley at No 8 will be Ack­er­mann’s son, Ruan Ack­er­mann.

Both teams have a host of Bok play­ers in the ranks, but it is surely the Li­ons – the dom­i­nant South African team in Su­per Rugby this year – who have the edge.

They have the form play­ers and have home­ground ad­van­tage to­day, but a des­per­ate Sharks team are never to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

But the big ques­tion re­mains: Will the Li­ons sim­ply con­tinue where they left off, or will they strug­gle to find their rhythm after a month apart?

If they click, they’ll have too much power up front, and skill and pace at the back. But if the Sharks get among them and spoil their quick ball, Ack­er­mann’s men may just be in for a bat­tle. Li­ons: 15 An­dries Coet­zee, 14 Ruan Com­brinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Ro­han Janse van Rens­burg, 11 Court­nall Skosan, 10 El­ton Jan­tjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Ruan Ack­er­mann, 7 War­wick Teck­len­burg, 6 Jaco Kriel (capt), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 An­dries Fer­reira, 3 Ju­lian Redel­inghuys, 2 Mal­colm Marx, 1 Dy­lan Smith. Bench: 16 Ar­mand van der Merwe,17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jac­ques van Rooyen,19 Lourens Eras­mus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Syl­vian Mahuza. Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndun­gane, 14 S’Bura Sit­hole, 13 JP Pietersen, Paul Jor­daan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Eti­enne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adri­aanse, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira (capt). Bench: 16 Chili­boy Rale­pelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Coe­nie Oosthuizen, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Ste­fan Un­gerer, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 Sibu­siso Sit­hole. Ref­eree: Jaco Peyper (South Africa). Kick­off: 5pm.

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