Players realised Ackermann's Super dream

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 07:55

SUPER RUGBY SEMIFINAL REACTION: Johan Ackermann, who lost in a Final as a player, is one step closer to finally hold up the trophy as a winner.

The Lions coach, Ackermann, praised his team for allowing him the opportunity to finish off his coaching stint at Ellis Park with a Super Rugby Final.

The Lions - who the Super 10 in 1993 - will host the seven-time champion Crusaders at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Lions secured a first Super Rugby home Final since hosting the Reds (Queensland) in the Super 10 Final back in 1995, which they lost 16-30, after a spectacular second-half comeback saw them outscore the Hurricanes by six tries to four, en route to a 44-29 victory at Ellis Park this past Saturday.

Ackermann will be leaving the Lions for English club Gloucester at the end of the Lions' Super Rugby campaign.

The victory at the weekend ensured that Ackermann leaves the Lions with his wish - to bring the Super Rugby Final to Johannesburg - having been realised.

"Amazing and grateful," Ackermann said about his team's achievements - adding that it is "still unreal".

"The reason why it's unreal is that's what I always hoped to finish here [at Ellis Park]," he said, adding: "It will be in front of our own fans and own field.

"I am so humbled."

The Lions trailed 3-22 against the Hurricanes at the weekend.

Ackermann said prop Jacques van Rooyen's try just before half-time - which closed the gap to 10-22 at the break - along with Ackermann asking the players to raise their game during the half-time team talk, sparked the Lions' fightback.

"First of all I felt if we can score before half-time, and that happened - 10-22 sounds better than 3-22," he said.

"[The] half-time [talk] was quite simple. The forwards, I felt, were good in the set pieces, so we didn't change much there.

"However, on the attack we just said we going to be a bit more direct. I asked the players to really lift the intensity and to reset - forget the score, it's 0-0, let's just play 40 minutes of good rugby and whatever happens we can live with that.

"The players really did that.

"It looked like they put the first half behind them and they came out and they played some great rugby in the second half," explained Ackermann.

Stand-in captain and flank Jaco Kriel added that his teammates managed to inspire him with their passion and determination on the field in overturning a 3-22 deficit against the defending Super Rugby champions.

"To see character coming out like that in the second half from a bunch of guys that care for each other.

"I don't believe I can explain the feeling, being on the field and being inspired by your own players like they did today [Saturday]," Kriel said.

By Josh Isaacson, at Ellis Park

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