Lions have 'steep hill' to climb

Thu, 01 Sep 2016 18:33
Large johan ackermann h s 800

INTERVIEW: Golden Lions Johan Ackermann believes his team is entering a crucial period in their Currie Cup campaign. Jan de Koning reports.

Speaking to rugby365 ahead of their trip to Pretoria on Friday, Ackermann said they simply can't afford any more slip-ups - like their loss to Griquas a fortnight go.

While some pundits and the bookies are ready to install the defending champion Lions as favourites against their trans-Jukskei rivals, the Blue Bulls, Ackermann feels his team has not done enough to warrant that tag.

The Bulls - in fifth place, one point and one position behind the Lions on the table - have lost two of their four matches. They beat and under-performing Western Province and the hapless Eastern Province Kings, but lost to the Free State Cheetahs and Sharks.

The Lions, in contrast, have won two of their three matches - beating the Pumas and Boland, but lost to Griquas.

The Lions' remaining matches are against the Bulls (away), Western Province (home), Free State Cheetahs (away), EP Kings (home) and Sharks (away).

And that is why Ackermann feels his team has the tougher run-in to the play-offs. The Bulls, after Friday's outing, face Boland, Griquas  and the Pumas.

The Lions mentor dismissed the suggestion that the Bulls are struggling,

"They were a bit unlucky against the Sharks," he said of the Bulls' 19-26 loss in Durban last Saturday, adding: "There were some questions marks over one or two of those [Sharks] tries."

It is the two teams' contrasting schedules that is another cause for concern.

"They [the Bulls] have already played the Western Province, Cheetahs and Sharks.

"We are now going into that phases where we face the tougher teams," Ackermann told rugby365, adding:" "There is a tough road ahead for us."

He feels the Bulls remain a quality team.

"Most of their forwards have played Super Rugby. Their backline is the same, most played Super Rugby this year.

"On the day they can beat any team in this competition.

"The results may not have gone their way, but I don't feel they are in such bad shape.

"The biggest mistake you can make is to look at results.

"You have to turn up for every match ."

Ackermann also feels the defending Currie Cup champions are not playing quality rugby yet and their standards are not at an acceptable level.

"Unlike last year, we did not have a [pre-season] build-up of more than a month.

"We also lost [10] players since the Super Rugby Final."

He said their focus won't be exclusively on the win.

"Our focus will be on obtaining the standards we have set for ourselves. We have been erratic in the first three matches, so we are striving for a better standard."

With new combinations - as a result of the nine players being with the Springboks and another in Japan - the Lions need to make some adjustments.

"Time was not on our side this year to reset [after Super Rugby].

"We have to work on all aspects of our game. Our attack is not at a level it should be, while our defence can also improve.

"You always work on your set pieces.

"To reach our goals and make the play-offs, it will require a big effort.

"There are no easy games and this is an abbreviated Currie Cup [competition].

"For me, it is important that we improve every week.

"We are in the process of fixing the errors that come up every week."

By Jan de Koning
@King365ed
@rugby365com

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 24 February 2017
Highlanders v Chiefs 06h35 Dunedin
Reds v Sharks 09h00 Brisbane
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 02 March 2017
Force v Reds 10h30 Perth
RESULT SCORE
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 18 | 56
Tue, 21 February 2017
CUT-Ixias v Shimlas 13 | 22
Mon, 20 February 2017
UJ v UP-Tuks 18 | 11
UKZN-Impi v Fort Hare 16 | 10
Maties v NMMU-Madibaz 35 | 16
UWC v Rhodes 88 | 8
TUT v WSU 13 | 17
NWU-Pukke v UCT-Ikeys 20 | 15
Sun, 19 February 2017
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 46 | 31
Sale Sharks v Wasps 34 | 28
Sat, 18 February 2017
Connacht v Dragons 14 | 9
Ospreys v Munster 23 | 25
Leicester Tigers v Bristol 50 | 17
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 37 | 17
Bath v Harlequins 22 | 12
CURRIE CUP
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Free State Cheetahs 8 8 0 0 39
Blue Bulls 8 6 0 2 30
Western Province 8 5 0 3 27
Golden Lions 8 5 0 3 26
Sharks 8 5 0 3 25
Griquas 8 4 0 4 21
Boland 8 2 0 6 11
Pumas 8 1 0 7 10
EP Kings 8 0 0 8 1