Indeed, Loftus has been a fruitful venue for the men from Doornfontein a 36-27 win was recorded in the title-winning 2011 campaign while also coasting to a surprising 32-23 triumph last season. The Lions coach was naturally referring to his side’s own unique context but the logic applies just as well to their neighbours.
“If you win your home matches, you’ve got five wins in the bag already. Then you really just need two big performances away from home and you’re probably in a semi,” noted Ackermann.
Ironically, the Bulls really need to take heed of that because last season their form away from home was so capricious that they required a last-day away win at Ellis Park to avoid the wooden spoon. While the Lions need to make up for their opening home loss to the Cheetahs, they have the ideal opportunity to claim a vital away scalp.
It’s not a mere pipedream not only can they fall back on the mental galvanisation of previous years, they also hammered the Bulls 50-7 in a friendly earlier this year. “They played really well on that occasion,” remarked Bulls mentor Pine Pienaar.
“They also have most of the players that were involved then present. The way they played there is what we’re expecting from them this time too. I presume they’ll try to shift the ball and try and create width.”
Yet Ackermann cautioned that observers shouldn’t expect attack at all costs, conscious of the way it cost them in Durban last week. “Naturally you want to be positive but you want a balance too,” he said.
“You want to give the fans something attractive to watch but we need to play winning rugby too. That’s become our No 1 priority,” he added. Both packs will be under the microscope, especially the Lions’ infusion of experience in Willie Wepener and CJ van der Linde, who are expected to make a difference in the scrums while the Bulls seek improvement on a messy showing there against Griquas.
Marnitz Boshoff has been given a start at pivot at the expense of Elton Jantjies, whose sibling Tony has been backed in a move that might see the Bulls take control in the aerial and decision-making battle.