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Lions: 'Freedom within a framework'

Thu, 22 Aug 2013 15:23
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We will have to play better rugby
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Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann does not want to put the shackles on his free-running team, but he may rein them in just a little.

Ackermann, speaking ahead of his team's trans-Jukskei Currie Cup derby with the Blue Bulls on Saturday, admitted that the need to start winning is becoming more desperate with every passing week.

But the desire to turn their winless Currie Cup campaign around does not mean they will forgo their desire to play an expansive game.

"Hopefully the wheel will turn and then we'll be on the right side of the results," the Lions mentor told this website, when asked about the defeats in the first couple of weeks - 25-33 to the Sharks in Durban and 29-30 to the Free State Cheetahs in Johannesburg.

Now the bottom-placed Lions head 50-odd kilometres up the N1 to Pretoria to face the tournament's pace-setters.

"We will have to play better rugby and start winning if we want to stay in contact with the rest of the teams [in the competition]," Ackermann added.

It is certainly not getting any easier and the fact that there are no easy games in the competition is piling on the pressure.

"The fact that we are playing away from home again, [against the Blue Bulls] at Loftus [Versfeld] doesn't make it any easier," the Lions mentor said, adding: "However, as I have said from the outset, if you want to be in the semifinals, you have to be able to beat any team anywhere.

 

"We will just have to go out there and play better rugby than we have done the last two weeks."

Ackermann put his team's defeats down to "decision-making on the field" by certain individuals - when the ball is lost in contact or a player attempted a move that wasn't on.

"We do want to give the guys the freedom, but that judgment and decision making will, hopefully, improve as the weeks go by," he told this website.

"We also missed one-on-one tackles at critical stages, which let the opposition in for tries.

"If we can sharpen up the defence and improve the on-field decision making by the players it should go much better.

"As I said, we want to give the players that freedom [to play], but within the framework of making the right calls at the right time.

"The players must first back the structures, before they do their own thing - that balance we have to get right."

The Lions have been buoyed by the inclusion of Springbok Franco van Merwe, who was not required for the team's trip to Argentina this week, as well as the inclusion of veteran hooker Willie Wepener, who recently returned to Ellis Park after a lengthy stint at Loftus.

However, the change that raised most eyebrows this week was Ackermann's decision to name Marnitz Boshoff, another former Bull, ahead of Springbok Elton Jantjies at flyhalf.

By Jan de Koning

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