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Lions take up the Challenge again

Tue, 12 Mar 2013 08:43
Johan-ackermann-points-630 Johanackermannpresser
They will be an unknown factor to some extent
Quote-end

The Lions may be without a couple of key players when they resume their Challenge Series against the first of their French rivals, Mont de Marsan, on Saturday.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann told this website on Tuesday that a few players, who had some niggles, were rested from the Vodacom Cup win (45-15) over the Leopards this past weekend - players like Nicolaas Hanekom and Derick Minnie.

While those two may be ready to face up to the struggling French Top 14 team, a couple of other players are doubtful for Saturday's outing at Ellis Park.

Loose forward Warren Whiteley is struggling with an ankle strain and flank Jaco Kriel is struggling with a hamstring strain.

"We will make a call on them by Thursday," Ackermann told this website, when asked about the availability of these players.

The Lions mentor, who fielded the core of his frontline selection against the lowly Leopards, said the players needed some "game time" after a month-long break since their win over the Southern Kings in early February.

After their four-week hiatus and the warm-up match against the Leopards, the Lions tackle the French out, also known as Stade Montois, in a one-off game before flying off for a two-match series against the North American All Stars.

Stade Montois, currently last in the French Top 14 and looking likely to be relegated to the Pro D2 at the end of the season, only returned to the top flight after winning the 2011-12 promotion play-offs.

Founded in 1908 and based in Mont-de-Marsan, the capital of the Landes region in Aquitaine, they have a strong South African connection - with players like Pieter Grobler (hooker), Vickus Liebenberg (lock), Berend Botha (utility forward) and Lodie Britz (loose forward) all having featured in their last outing, against Toulouse.

"We did get hold of some video material of their matches, so we will do some analysis to see what we can expect," Ackermann told this website.

"They will be an unknown factor to some extent.

"However, we are going to do what we do and focus on our own game."

The Lions mentor said they are keeping in the back of our minds the fact that they are building towards the season-ending promotion-relegation matches against the bottom South African team in Super Rugby.

"The important aspect is that we keep growing in terms of our own game," Ackermann said.

He will name his team on Thursday.

"We are waiting for Mont de Marsan to give us an indication of the size of the matchday squad," the Lions coach said, adding: "They are looking at a squad of 25.

"We have to look at which additional players we will add to our squad - we have to make call on additional forwards or additional backs."

By Jan de Koning

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