Kriel: Being No.1 means nothing

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 07:51

SUPER RUGBY QUARTERFINAL SPOTLIGHT: Apart from bragging rights, finishing first on the standings have little value to teams.

The same applies to the Lions, who have gone from zeroes to heroes in just four years - topping the tournaments standings this year.

In 2013 the Johannesburg-based franchise was kicked out of the competition in what many felt was an act of political expediency.

They went back and rebuilt their brand, using mostly discards and unwanted players from other franchises.

On their return in 2014 the new-look Lions won a franchise record seven matches and finished 12th. The next year they raised the bar again - nine wins and an eighth-place finish. Last year, the first year of Super 18, they won 11 games and finished runners up.

This year they topped the log, but the Lions are adamant they have won nothing yet.

Lions captain Jaco Kriel, speaking to rugby365 ahead of their quarterfinal encounter with the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday, said to be top of the standings in 2017 - after coming back from their enforced exile in 2013 - is unbelievable'..

He said it is not a feeling you can always put in words.

However, they are not going to be caught up in the hype of topping the log and forget about the play-offs.

"In the play-offs that No.1 position means nothing, other than giving you homeground advantage," Kriel said.

"While it is an amazing feeling, given where we have come from, we can't get caught up in the hype."

Kriel said they are not also going to create unwanted pressure just because it is a play-off match.

"We are not going to change much,"he told rugby365, adding: "We will stick with the systems.

"Everything we do we want to do better.

"We want to challenge ourselves to improve every week in the play-offs. We have to go out on Saturday and execute."

The Springbok flank said last weekend's win over the Sharks in Durban was not the standards they set for themselves.

"However, closer analysis will reveal it were small things with which we shot ourselves in the foot," Kriel said.

"Players will make mistakes, but it is how you react to those mistakes."

The Lions skipper said he expects the Sharks to place a big emphasis on the breakdowns.

"In order to play our game, we will have to be very accurate at the breakdowns.

"We will also have to be accurate with our skills, such as catch and pass, while our decision-making will also have to be spot on."

By Jan de Koning

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
Rebels 15 1 1 13 9
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 15 14 0 1 63
Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
Chiefs 15 12 1 2 57
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 0 5 43
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 15 14 0 1 65
Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
Jaguares 15 7 0 8 33
Kings 15 6 0 9 28