Lions go 'one-on-one' with Bulls
INTERVIEW: Lions coach Johan Ackermann earmarked defence as a key area for his team ahead of their Currie Cup crunch match with the Bulls.
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann earmarked defence as a key area for his team ahead of their Currie Cup crunch match with the Blue Bulls.
Sitting pretty in second place, the Lions have been installed as slight favourites by the bookmakers for Saturday's trans-Jukskei derby in Pretoria.
However, despite hovering in a lowly sixth place with just one win from four starts, the Bulls remain a major threat to their Gauteng neighbours.
Ackermann, speaking to rugby365 ahead of the trip to Loftus Versfeld, said that the set pieces and their big ball carriers are the Bulls' strengths.
"Our defence will have to be top-notch, as the Bulls will come with those big ball-carriers," the Lions' mentor said, adding: "Just look how many metres players like Jacques du Plessis and Dean Greyling made [against the Kings] last week.
"One-on-one tackling will be very important."
The coach also felt the Bulls have improved their scrum significantly and dominated the set-pieces against Western Province last week.
"We can expect a massive onslaught in that regard," he said, adding that the Lions can't afford the same slip-ups as those that cost them against the Eastern Province Kings in their Round Four outing.
"We did scrum well at times and got a couple of penalties," he said of the Lions' match in Port Elizabeth.
"In one specific scrum they [the Kings] put us under real pressure and we conceded a penalty. I was not pleased and the players rectified it after we had a good chat about it at half-time."
Ackermann said in the one scrum where the Kings got the edge the Lions were not good as a unit - putting it down to just one bad scrum.
"I said to the players on Monday, if you think your are getting good and you are getting a reputation for being strong in one area, you will be challenged by other teams," he told rugby365.
"We said to each other, this week, that we can afford to let months of hard work [in the scrums] slip, so we have to go back and work at it again.
"In our last encounter they [the Bulls] also put us under pressure in the line-outs, so we'll have to improve in that aspect to ensure we get quality ball from the line-outs.
"That is the key against the Bulls, you have to win the set-piece contest against them.
"If we get the set pieces right we should be okay.
"Our rucking wasn't too bad [against the Kings] and one stage we took the ball through 20 phases.
"Apart from that, because of their big and strong ball carriers, our defence will have to be 100 percent spot on."
By Jan de Koning