In a bumper weekend for the South African teams, the Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions and Stormers all won, with only the Sharks coming unstuck in a local derby.
The Bulls, after downing the Reds at Loftus Versfeld, retain their lead in the SA Conference, with 24 points, but they’re closely followed by the Stormers (22), Lions (21) and Sharks (20). Propping up the mini-table are the Cheetahs (13), who got back on track with a win against the Western Force on Saturday. The Stormers also came good against the Waratahs.
The good news as the competition hits the halfway point is four teams – the Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks – are in the top 10 overall and all in a position to finish inside the play-off places.
Gold, whose team have now finished their double round of fixtures against the Lions, said he was backing Johan Ackermann’s men to reach the knock-out games.
“Oh ja, I’ve no question of a doubt about that,” he said after Saturday’s Ellis Park thriller. “Ackers has done a fantastic job with the Lions; they play for each other and there’s outstanding passion.
“What makes things a little easier for them is the fact they don’t have any disruptions; they’re not losing six, seven or eight Springboks every now and again. They can be drilled week-in and week-out.
“Also, we know how good they are at home and the fact they’ve been together for a while now certainly helps.”
Gold though said it was too early to predict the outcome of the local conference. “It’s unbelievably tight; anything can still happen, but that’s good for SA rugby.”
Ackermann, too, said he wasn’t getting carried away now that his side have won five in six matches to put them hot on the heels of the more fancied Bulls and Stormers.
“It’s early days and a lot of rugby still has to be played.
“There are no easy games in this competition. We’ve got a ton of work to do but right now we’re going to take a week off and hopefully return refreshed and in better shape and keep winning.”
This weekend the Lions are off, the Cheetahs host the Reds, the Stormers face the Western Force in Perth and the Sharks and Bulls square off in Durban. - The Star
Original source: Lions can make playoffs - Gold