What we saw against Samoa was good
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes that his players are where he wants them to be heading into their game against Western Province this weekend.
Despite a number of setbacks the Johannesburg franchise has managed to keep their players going and have found ways around this - including lifting the Vodacom Cup last month and they are preparing as well as possible for their Super Rugby promotion/relegation match.
Having a lack of competitive fixtures this year has been a blow, but Ackermann realises that these friendly fixtures are a lot better than nothing.
"It is about a good hit-out and spending time on the pitch. Getting players conditioned to the game situation because you cannot have that same pressure in training," Ackermann told this website in an interview.
Although their match against Samoa was fairly diluted, the coach still felt that is was good for his team to gauge themselves against more international opposition.
"We were satisfied in the way we played in certain areas and especially in the way we finished some of our tries and we did expect a bit more but to be fair to them they did only come together that week from all over the world and they lacked time together.
"For us it was still a big challenge and the guys were really motivated for the game
"It was definitely not perfect but what we saw against Samoa was good," Ackermann added.
Ackermann does see these friendly matches as an advantage for his side because it gives them an opportunity to gain some much-needed game time.
"This weekend is no different to any other game, it is better to train and to play than to just train and sit and watch rugby on the weekends," the coach mentioned.
These friendly matches, although played incredibly hard, offer an opportunity for the coach to try new things and see whether what they are doing is right.
"Being able to improve our decision-making under pressure is what we are after in these friendly games. It is not about the scoreboard, it's about the continuity and to test stuff that you have prepared during the week and to see where you need to work on."
Although the promotion game is still a fair distance in the future, Ackermann feels that his team will be in the right place when that match comes around.
"We know that Super Rugby is a tough competition where the sides are playing at a high intensity and we know that we have to go to another level when we get closer to the promotion/relegation game.
The South African Super Rugby conference seems to be falling into some sort of order with the Bulls and the Cheetahs occupying the top two positions. Then the Sharks and the Stormers are fighting it out for that third spot and the Southern Kings starting to languish 14 points behind.
If this is anything to go by, the grudge match might see the newly promoted take on the recently relegated for a Super Rugby spot in 2014.
By Nick Tatham