Lions to take on the Cheetahs

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

To celebrate their return to Super Rugby following a keenly-fought and fairly controversial promotion-relegation tussle with the Kings, Sanzar paid the Lions the compliment of opening 2014’s edition against the Cheetahs on February 15.

However, they’ll need to embark on the 400km trip to Bloemfontein in what is merely the start to what could become a taxing few opening weeks.

Despite the relative comfort of a home fixture against the Stormers the following week, they’ll have to visit Loftus and King’s Park on successive weekends after that – a sequence that can potentially put them off the pace expediently if they don’t cope effectively.

Facing the Blues, Reds and Crusaders would probably prompt thoughts of despair but those three meetings are at least at Ellis Park but they’ll have to face defending champions the Chiefs away from home. Should things go barmy, they’ll need to take advantage of a run-in of three home games.

As seems almost customary, the Cheetahs begin their Australasian tour early in their campaign and will aim to build a similar head of steam like this year’s fairytale run. The Sharks’ early-season rhythm might be disrupted by a bye in round three and then they face the difficult task of taking on the Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues Down Under.

Frans Ludeke’s Bulls don’t necessarily have such a daunting tour as the Durbanites but instead are confronted with unpredictable assignments such as the Hurricanes and Highlanders. The Stormers have an interesting campaign.

Allister Coetzee’s troops, like the Cheetahs, fly Down Under quite early and only have three fixtures scheduled on that sojourn. Yet those three stops are Christchurch, Hamilton and Canberra.

Should they emerge relatively unscathed or even galvanised, their run after that could render them prime contenders.

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