Lions in at Shark Tank's deep end
Lions in at Shark Tank's deep endSHARE
The Lions may already have claimed the scalps of the Cheetahs and Stormers, but the Sharks in Durban is an entirely different challenge.
Back in Super Rugby after a year on the sidelines, the men from Johannesburg celebrated with a one-point win over the Cheetahs and a 24-point demolition of the Stormers.
Then came the first reality check, an eight-point loss to the Bulls in Pretoria last week.
It is not going to get any easier for Johan Ackermann and his charges, when they head to Kings Park on Saturday for a meeting with the star-studded and unbeaten Sharks.
"It is going to be a huge challenge for us," Ackermann told this website, when asked about the encounter with the South African conference leaders – who had a bye last week, after toppling the Bulls and Hurricanes in the opening rounds.
"The game is in Durban, against a team in form," he said, adding: "They are loaded with Springboks from front to back [11 in the starting XV].
"It certainly won't be easy, but we have to be up for it.
"The week thereafter we play against the Blues, then the Reds, who have a host of Wallabies, and the week after that the Crusaders, with a bunch of All Blacks.
"The players must swim in the deep end.
"The guys who are only in their third or fourth Super Rugby game must use this opportunity.
"From a coaching point of view we will prepare them as best we can, but on the day they [the players] must handle the pressure and perform."
Ackermann said he believes they have the ability.
"They [the players] must just believe in themselves, go out on the day and do the job.
"Challenges don't come much bigger than this – on Saturday we face a very good Sharks team on their home ground."
The Lions mentor doesn't believe last week's loss to the Bulls would have done too much damage in the top six inches.
"I believe they are [mentally tough enough]," he said, adding: "We will stay true to our processes.
"Our goal from the outset was that we would not allow victories or defeats influence us.
"We are not, just because we lost, start hitting the panic button by starting to train more or do different things.
"We will stick to our processes..
"These young guys will get up and play. Here and there a player may come in or drop out, but our weekly build-up will be exactly the same."
By Jan de Koning