Lions must overcome 'stage fright'

Thu, 15 Aug 2013 21:58
Large golden lions team huddle Large lions v cheetahs5 Large johan ackermann media Large hennie daniller cheetahs v Large swys de bruin   johan acker

The Golden Lions will have a good chance of upsetting the Sharks if they do not allow them to race into an early lead.

The Golden Lions will have a good chance of upsetting the Sharks if they do not allow them to race into an early lead.

After coming within a missed conversion of beating the highly-rated Free State Cheetahs last week, the inexperienced Lions now know they do belong at this level.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann admitted that his team suffered from 'stage fright' in the early stage of their loss to the Cheetahs last week, before an improved second-half performance saw them coming within grasp of a win.

"The guys did appear to be wide-eyed," Ackermann told this website, adding: "It was understandable, given that we had about 10 guys who made their first Currie Cup appearance for the Lions, of which four played their first-ever Currie Cup game."

The new-look Lions team was the result of a string of injuries, along with the departure of regular captain JC Janse van Rensburg and seasoned lock Hendrik Roodt (who both moved abroad) and lock Franco van der Merwe called up to the Springboks.

"We have an injury list of 11 players, then you add the players who departed and are with the Boks - it is a large chunk of our team missing," Ackermann said.

"It was a great occasion and there was a certain amount of uncertainty [within the team], as the Cheetahs have a very good team.

"Some of the guys would have said to themselves; 'We are now up against a Super Rugby team, can I play at this level?'

"As the game progressed they would have realised they are capable and do belong at that level. That resulted in our improved performance in the latter stages of the game."

Ackermann said the players will now know that at this level you can't take too long before finding your feet and you have to be in the game from the outset.

"We have to take that momentum and belief into this game from the outset, especially the attitude that the Sharks will bring to the game," he said of Friday's trip to Durban.

"They would have been given a tongue-lashing from their coaches [after losing to Griquas last week] and they would have told they need a better start - given their poor start against the Griquas," he said of a match in which the Sharks went 0-13 down inside the first quarter.

"We will have to be up for it, ensure we don't concede unnecessary points or go too far behind in the early stages."

The Lions mentor said the Sharks will have been bitterly disappointed with the 30-32 loss last week and will be highly motivated to make amends this week.

"Also, they would not want to lose another home game," Ackermann said, adding: "We are certainly catching them at a bad time.

"However, if you want to win [the Currie Cup competition] you have to be able to beat any team anywhere.

"Durban will certainly be a huge challenge to us, especially since we also lost last week.

"We have the things [aspects of our game] we have to fix and that is what this week is all about. We know how motivated they will be, so we will have to match them in that regard."

By Jan de Koning

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