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Lions desire some Kiwi meat

Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:46
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It adds some spice to the occasion
Quote-end

The Lions, having had their fill of prime South African beef, are keen to taste something different in their return to Super Rugby.

Having started their season with encounters against the Cheetahs, Stormers (both wins), Bulls and Sharks (both losses), the Lions play in their first cross-conference game when they host the Blues at Ellis Park on Saturday.

And coach Johan Ackermann said there is great excitement in the young squad - many of whom have never played againmst any side from New Zealand.

Despite a disappointing 23-37 loss to the Sharks last week, the Lions players believe they can be competitive against teams from outside South Africa and Saturday presents their first opportunity to prove this theory.

Ackermann said the Sharks, who are being seen as one of the favourites to reach the Final, was a good yardstick for his side.

"We recovered well after a slow start," the Lions mentor told this website.

"I feel there won't be too much doubt, the players will start believing in their ability, despite the two defeats [to the Bulls and Sharks]," he added.

On the flipside, the Blues are into the second week of their tour of South Africa, and they would have acclimatised.

So the men from Auckland will pose a serious threat to the home side.

"There is no doubt [Blues coach] John Kirwan would have had a goal of winning at least one of his two games on tour," Ackermann told this website.

"They will come with a huge effort on Saturday, as they will be determined to get some points from the tour."

The Lions coach admitted his team will be on the receiving end of a backlash, after the Bulls gave the Blues a hiding last week.

"However, the Lions are looking forward to the challenge.

"It will be the first Australasian opposition we will face, after having played just South African opponents," Ackermann said, adding: "The guys have had their share of SA derbies, so it will be nice to face another team [from Australasia] and hopefully we will play with the same intensity and focus as when we face South African teams.

"It certainly adds some spice to the occasion and for many players it will be their first encounter with a New Zealand team.

"It has brought a new excitement in the camp and you can see the guys are looking forward to the weekend.

"Hopefully we get some good weather, as it has been raining a lot [with heavy thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday, slowly clearing up with some rain and stray showers towards the weekend].

"We are hoping it will clear up so we can have a good game."

By Jan de Koning

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