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Lions in a tight spot

Wed, 05 Feb 2014 20:45
Lions-training-general Johan-ackermann-points Willie-du-plessis-lions
Jo'burg franchise faces a Kings(ize) pickle
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The Lions will face a stern examination of their Super Rugby pedigree when they face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Friday.

And the biggest test will be in the scrums, where they will come up against the all-Springbok front row of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, as well as Tendai Mtawarira.

Given his team's set-piece problems in their 19-12 pre-season win over the Southern Kings last week, coach Johan Ackermann admitted they will have to "work hard" ahead of facing a much more intimidating adversary.

While the Lions' starting front row - Julian Redelinghuys, Willie Wepener and Schalk van der Merwe - held their own against the Kings, it was once the back-up arrived on the field in the second half that things went pear-shaped for the Lions.

"I am concerned, as I expected more," Ackermann said of his front row depth.

"They are good players and what makes them good players is the fact that they are good ball carriers - Jacques [van Rooyen] when he played for us and Corne [Fourie] for the Pumas last year.

"It has to be remembered that Jacques van Rooyen played his first game for us at tighthead [prop].

"We are putting him on trial there. We do have some good loosehead props and want to see if he can have the same impact at tighthead for us.

"However, it does start in the scrums and we can't neglect the scrums - we will work hard on that aspect."

Ackermann said that Ruan Dreyer is still coming back from injury and is a very good tighthead that will help resolve the issue.

"I do expect the guys who come on to be of the same standard, so that is something we will pay attention to."

Kings stand-in coach Robbie Kempson, who played in 37 Tests for the Springboks from 1998 to 2003, admitted the Lions are in a similar pickle to what the Kings found themselves in last year.

"I can't speak for Ackers [Johan Ackermann], but he does know that he doesn't have dept in certain positions." Kempson said.

The former Bok prop felt that it is not a problem of the Lions mentor's making.

"He is in the same predicament the Kings were in last year," Kempson said, adding: "He can't get the top rugby players in the country, [because] he doesn't have a headline sponsor.

"I feel very sorry for him.

"He should be given the best opportunity to perform at a top level [and] he is not being given that opportunity, because certain [provincial] presidents decided not to vote for something that is not a rugby decision.

"I feel sorry for him in that respect, he doesn't have the strength in dept that the Sharks, Stormers, Cheetahs and Bulls have.

"Unfortunately he is not going to get it this season.

"That is why he took off players earlier than he should have - he can't afford to have injury to his top players."

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