Lions need that 'killer instinct'

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:45
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The Lions have surprised most pundits and sit in a handy fourth place on the Super Rugby standings.

The Lions have surprised most pundits and sit in a handy fourth place on the Super Rugby standings.

However, coach Johan Ackermann has again warned against too high expectations, despite his team's impressive early-season form.

Having already beaten the Cheetahs and Stormers (by more than 20 points), their win over the Blues this past weekend made one thing very clear - the men from Johannesburg are not going to be the 'easybeats' all the so-called experts predicted them to be.

However, Ackermann - speaking to this website ahead of their Round Six encounter with the Reds, said his team is still learning in every game - having been taught another very valuable lesson by the Blues last Saturday.

As they head into their first encounter with an Australian team this week, Ackermann feels his charges need to start showing a killer instinct and not let the foot off the gas as they did against the Blues.

"They certainly bring a new challenge," Ackermann told this website, when asked about the upcoming encounter with the Brisbane-based Reds.

"We can't just look at their game against the Sharks this past Saturday," the Lions coach said of a 20-35 loss in Durban, adding: "We have to accept that they may have been a bit below par.

"It was their first game on the road and we have to realise they will be a much bigger threat.

"We know how dangerous their backline can be and we will certainly have to improve our defence."

Ackermann said it is just as important to work on their own game plan.

"We obviously have to tick all the boxes, like line-outs and scrums," the coach said.

"However, the main focus will be our defence.

"We had a few mishaps [on defence] against the Blues this past weekend and those have to be rectified."

The coach felt the errors that allowed the Blues to come back from 0-20 down and almost snatch victory (the Lions won 39-36) can not be laid at the door of their defensive system, but rather individuals they have to pay some attention to.

"At one stage we had too much of an advantage and the intensity was just not the same [as the first half]," Ackermann said.

"It was another lesson for the players, in Super Rugby no team ever gives in. You have to play for 80 minutes and once you have a lead you have to concentrate even more on not letting up the pressure and easing off.

"Many of the younger guys, who are in their first Super Rugby season, would have learned that lesson this weekend," he said admitting that the "killer instinct" is something they have to bring on board very quickly.

"Especially if you play against a team who has been in those situations before," he said, adding: "We faced a Blues team with six All Blacks and this week a Reds team littered with Wallabies.

"Those are guys who have played Test matches and know what it takes to have to work hard to erase at deficit.

"They will never give in and when you have the lead, you have to maintain that intensity.

"As soon as you take your foot off the throat they will come back at you. They [the Reds] have talent right across the field and they will find a spot to expose you if you drop the intensity even just slightly."

By Jan de Koning

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