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Lions doing it for the fans

Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:22
Lions-fans
Every player wants to win
Quote-end
Johan Ackermann's main pressure of Super Rugby does not come from external factors in the competition, but rather from keeping the fans faithful.
 
The Lions came into the 2014 tournament after a contentious playoff - relegation match with the Kings that saw them pip the Eastern Province outfit on points difference.
 
Returning to Super Rugby, after previous seasons as regulars at the foot of the log, there was never going to be immense pressure to perform, with many expecting the youthful and green Lions to be humiliated.
 
This has not been the case, the Lions sit a credible 7th on the log - one point behind the Bulls, and with one more game won than their Jukskei rivals.
 
With this impressive run one might assume that the pressure could now be mounting on Ackermann and his charges to perform, to push for a play-off spot, or to go even further.
 
However Ackermann is not ready to succumb to that sought of tournament stress and rather says the only pressure he is feeling is that of making the fans proud and living up to their expectations.
 
"If they [Lions supporters] have expectations that the Lions team can do this and go so far then we need to match up to it," the coach said in an interview with this website.
 
"If we don't do it [live up to expectations] there is going to be big disappointment and we want them [the supporters] just to recognise the progress that the players have made and the effort that goes in and hopefully the results will come.
 
"It can be a bit of a problem if we start to perform for the wrong reasons."
 
The Lions boss is not blind to the fact that things have changed with regards to the Lions outlook to the tournament as well as other teams perspective of the previously perpetual bottom dwellers.
 
"It's pressure that probably has increased over the last two weeks but it's pressure I don't want to add to the team," Ackermann said.
 
"I don't want to say this is a must win game, because every player that runs on the field wants to win, that come naturally - and hopefully our supporters will understand that we as the Lions team will always go out and do our best.
 
"As long as they [the supporters] can see that effort, hopefully they will realise too that it's not always about the result."
 
The Lions take on the table-topping Sharks on Saturday before traveling to Cape Town to face the Stormers, then it will be time for the inexperienced Lions squad to go on tour.
 
For many of the players it will be their first time on a tour of such scale and in order to facilitate a smooth process the coach has alrady got everything prepared.
 
"It's going good [the tour preparations], the last thing we need to do is get through the last two weeks, then we have a bye before we go overseas, the one thing that can  change the tour is injuries," Ackermann added.
 
"If we do get a few injuries we have to change the players but other than that everything is going well.
 
"Everything is planned, our weeks are planned ahead on tour, when we are going to play, when we are going to train, where we going to stay.
 
"As time comes closer we will do a good session with the players on what to expect, like how to handle the jet lag and the rest."
 
By Darryn Pollock
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