Crunch time for Lions

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It’s been a gruelling first half of the competition for the Lions, which has included a four-week overseas trip, but clever man management by Ackermann has ensured the Joburg team have stayed fresh and competitive. Going against the norm of trying to settle on a first choice XV and playing that squad as often as possible, Ackermann has chopped and changed his personnel on a regular basis and it’s paid big dividends. The Lions have won four of their eight matches – three of those overseas – and they’ll be hoping to make it five wins in nine this weekend which would set them up perfectly to push for a play-off spot in the second half of their campaign.

The front row have rotated positions throughout the competition, while in the second row and back row only Franco Mos-tert and Warren Whiteley have been regulars in every starting team. At the back only Lionel Mapoe has started every game.

It’s been a masterstroke by the coach, who believes every player is good enough to start. He’s fully aware of the importance of his bench; the men coming on late in the game expected to make a big impact.

This week it’s the turn of Julian Redelinghuys and Jacques van Rooyen to prop the scrum, Jaco Kriel comes in at flank for Derick Minnie and at the back Faf de Klerk will play scrum-half.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in every player, regardless of who starts and who plays off the bench,” said Ackermann ahead of the Sharks game. “The front row guys have been playing together for two years now and know each other well. It doesn’t matter what combination I pick as the standard never drops.”

In the back row Whiteley and Warwick Tecklenburg have been revelations and this week they’re joined by fit-again Kriel, who takes over from Derick Minnie.

“Jaco’s got the X-Factor and I’ve told him to empty the tank,” said Ackermann. “We’ve managed his groin injury and he’s now ready to go; we know what ability he has to change a game. Kriel said he was ready to help the Lions to an important win before their bye. “We’re all aware of the rotation policy and we know that when we get a chance we’ve got to give it our all. It’s been good for the team; we’ve had fresh legs throughout the campaign.”

The powerhouse flanker is relishing going up against Marcell Coetzee, Renaldo Bothma and also Willem Alberts, who’s back for the Sharks this week, albeit from the bench. “It’s a nice challenge going up against them, but I’m not going to turn it into a one-on-one battle. We just focus on what we have to do as individuals. If we do our jobs then the team will perform to its potential,” said Kriel.

Ackermann will hope for exactly this come tomorrow (kickoff 5pm) because a fourth win on the trot will allow the Lions to refuel those emptying tanks with smiles on their faces. - The Star

Original source: Crunch time for Lions

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