And, he said quite candidly, if his players miss as many one-on-one tackles against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld this weekend his team won’t stand a chance of picking up another victory.
The Lions’ tight defence has been the hallmark of their campaign so far and the team have taken huge pride in not conceding soft tries to the opposition. It’s fair to say their wins against the Blues, Reds, Rebels, Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs have been built around their strong tackling.
Captain Warren Whiteley leads the overall tackle count in the competition, but he’s closely followed by Warwick Tecklen-burg and a good few other Lions players. Against the Cheetahs though far more tackles were missed than had been the case up to then and it resulted in the match going down to the wire; the Lions scraping home with a five-point victory. Both teams crossed the whitewash on four occasions.
Ackermann believes the defensive frailties were more about individuals missing their man rather than there being something wrong with the system. “It had nothing to do with the structure of our defence; that’s in place,” he said ahead of Saturday’s big Gauteng derby. “It was about individuals missing their man so it’s not something we can’t fix before going to Pretoria. The players themselves know what to do to correct it and they’ll do that. We know we can’t be so sloppy against a team like the Bulls. They’ve got some great backs and they like to run hard from the back.”
Flanker Tecklenburg agrees that the Lions’ defence has come to the fore this season and that there’s nothing wrong with their system. “We’ve worked hard on getting our defence sorted. A lot of credit must go to assistant coach JP Ferreira, who’s put a lot of work into it and I believe our system is very sound. We’ve all worked hard and we can now trust the guys next to us to make a tackle.”
The four tries conceded to the Cheetahs would have hurt then, especially when one considers that the Lions are the seventh best defensive side in the competition. They’ve let in 23 tries so far, but would be much higher up in that department had it not been for the four let in last weekend.
Much of the emphasis then in training this week would have focused on the individuals, ensuring they maintain the high standards achieved so far. The Bulls will be hurting after their defeat at Newlands last Saturday and they know they need a win badly before going on tour. Fresh in their minds will also be the narrow loss they suffered to the Lions just four weeks ago, at Ellis Park.
Since then the Lions have gone unbeaten and look to be a settled outfit, keen to make the play-offs.
They have, however, got some tough games coming up – against the likes of the Brumbies, Highlanders and Waratahs – and would also love to register another win now, which would be their seventh in eight games.
While Ackermann is set to stick largely to the same team that beat the Cheetahs last weekend, there is some concern in the camp around star centre Lionel Mapoe who’s nursing a knee injury, while the Bulls are set to have Victor Matfield back and leading the side.
Also, significantly, the Bulls will take on the Lions on this occasion with Handre Pollard at No 10 unlike when they last met when Jacques-Louis Potgieter started at flyhalf. Both coaches will name their line-ups today.- The Star
Original source: First time tackles key for Lions