Lions to fight for title

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 12:09

REACTION: Lions head coach Johan Ackermann knows that his side will have to continue showing their fighting spirit when they face the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Final at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Ackermann's side fought back from being 3-22 down in their semifinal against the Hurricanes to win 44-29 in Johannesburg last weekend.

With their backs to the wall at half-time, the Lions completely outplayed the 'Canes in the second half and Ackermann wants a repeat of that performance against the travelling Crusaders this weekend.  

"We can just focus on ourselves," Ackermann told reporters after the win against the Hurricanes. "We've got a lot of belief. The one thing I can ask the players is to go out and give their best. If they've done that and a side comes here and beats us, then credit to them."

"We respect all the sides that come here. Even more when it's play-off time when you know that the sides are top quality, so nothing is going to change.

"The Hurricanes are a good side. One loss does not make them a bad side and it’s the same for the Crusaders. They have proven it today [Saturday against the Chiefs) again.

"[The Crusaders have] All Blacks all over and we have to be able to repeat the performance like today and be up to have any shot. 

"The belief is always there, regardless of who we play - the Australian sides or the New Zealand sides. The belief is here. I just know that the guys care for each other and that's the most important thing."

Ackermann knows that the Crusaders will be hungry to taste Super Rugby success once again.

The Lions beat the Crusaders in the quarterfinals last year, but the Lions won't be looking into the past for motivation.

"They are definitely a quality side. Their background their history is all quality, so it is going to boil down to 80 minutes. 

"Again, to go back to last year is not going to help us. We have to reset, we haven't really achieved anything yet. We haven't got a trophy, so the challenge for us is to train well and obviously enjoy the victory, but to start Monday refreshed, reset and to know there is a side [Crusaders] that also is going to fight to the end to get that title," Ackermann added.

Meanwhile, Beauden Barrett's yellow card in the semifinal loss to the Lions was probably the most contentious incident over the weekend.

Barrett's 10 minutes in the sin-bin definitely gave the Lions a big advantage at a crucial stage, but Ackermann does not believe it was the sole reason his side won. 

"We saw last week against the Sharks the impact of a yellow card, for them [Sharks] and us, and today [Saturday] we saw it again. 

"It is difficult already playing against those sides and then you give away a yellow card. I think the Hurricanes experienced that today. 

"Again, it was created through pressure from the players and therefore the good thing was that the players used that opportunity. 

"The reality is that it is not going to get easier. You still have to work hard this week. The yellow card made a big difference, but I still feel that the players' decision making, calmness and intensity - all those factors and not just the yellow card is going to win the match for you," said Ackermann.

@rugby365com

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