2 minute read
11 Apr 2014
2:42 pm

Lions take on pace-setting Sharks

The Lions face the unenviable task of taking on the log-leading Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann. Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images.

While the hosts have shown some giant-slaying abilities this season, they will summon those strengths if they are to claim victory in their last home game.

The Lions then face the Stormers in Cape Town and then leave on a tour of Australasia.

The Sharks sit atop the Super Rugby table after losing only one of their first six matches of the season.

They have already enjoyed their two allocated byes of the season and should be rested for the encounter against the Lions.

In the two sides’ first meeting in Durban last month, the Sharks outplayed the visiting Lions 37-23.

The Lions have tasted some success this season when they have ditched their habitual expansive style for a more conservative approach.

Coach Johan Ackermann, however, is adamant that they still prefer to run the ball.

“They want to be adventurous and the moment you ask them to be a bit more conservative they look to be out of their comfort zone,” Ackermann said.

“They must just get that balance right. There are times when you can’t just run from your 22. You have to be conservative and kick the ball out.

“We don’t want to lose that adventurous edge we have, because that is the way we want to play.”

The Sharks have gained all their victories this season on home soil and suffered their maiden defeat in an away game against the Bulls in Pretoria.

The Lions would like to exploit this statistic and take full advantage of playing in front of a spirited home crowd at Ellis Park.

It was a different-looking Lions side that travelled to Durban in their last encounter, when Ackermann reshuffled his side to include the returning Elton Jantjies and moved on-song flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff to fullback.

The experiment was unsuccessful and Jantjies was subsequently dropped from the side to give him time to recapture his form.

While Ackermann felt his side did not employ the game plan they had worked on for the Crusaders match, he said they would use similar tactics against the Sharks.

“We will basically have the same strategy as we had against the Crusaders. The Sharks do pressurise you in your own half and they wait for you to make mistakes,” said Ackermann.

“That is why we have to be better with our breakdown, at our ball protection… if we fix all the small things, we might surprise them.”

Sharks’ director of rugby Jake White warned that his side would be going up against a top side, and believed the battle up front would be all the difference between the teams.

“The Lions’ forward pack has been outstanding and I think Johan Ackermann has done a fantastic job,” said White.

“Their front row [comprised] supposedly young players, have come along and staked a claim.

“That’s just three players in a whole team, but it epitomises everybody in that group no-namers who have really stuck their hands up and played above themselves,” White said.