Only a win will do for Lions

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That’s the challenge facing the Lions outfit of Johan Ackermann this weekend. It’ll be the Joburg team’s final game of the regular season and only a win will be good enough to keep alive their chances of finishing in the play-off places. The leading Stormers and the Bulls, who are still hot on the heels of the Lions despite a horror tour in Australasia, have two games remaining.

The Lions scored a win against the Waratahs on Saturday – a stunning 27-22 triumph – to ensure there will be plenty to play for at Newlands. Warren Whiteley’s team came close to beating the Stormers at Ellis Park in the early rounds – a result which may ultimately cost the Lions their place in the knockout rounds – but having strung together a number of impressive results since then know they’re capable of beating anyone, anywhere.

“Playing the Waratahs was a huge challenge and now beating them has done a lot for our confidence. It’s upped our belief again and with this being our best performance of the season we’ve set a standard and now have to maintain it and even up it,” said Whiteley.

“There was a real hunger (before the Waratahs game) and there’s great belief in this side.

“The Stormers are a quality side. We saw what they did to the Cheetahs. It’s never easy down there in Cape Town, but as much as we were excited for the Waratahs challenge, we’ll be excited for the challenge the Stormers will pose.”

Ackermann agreed with his inspirational captain that his side would go to Cape Town and give it everything.

“If we’re able to play with the same intensity we had tonight against the Waratahs we’ll be in with a shout. It’ll come down to our attitude and our hunger. Obviously the weather will be different and the Stormers remain favourites to get into the play-offs, but we’ll have our own game plan.”

The Lions will be a pumped up bunch after registering their ninth win in 15 games to occupy seventh place in the standings. Their win over the defending champions, the Waratahs, was hugely impressive; the Lions dominating the set-pieces, their defence generally holding up and their attacking players at times asking plenty of the visitors.

“Considering the Waratahs will be in the play-offs and the fact they’re defending champions, this must be one of our best wins of the year,” said Ackermann. “All the credit must go to the assistants (Swys de Bruin and JP Ferreira) and all the people who worked on the different areas of the game. We had a plan and it worked perfectly. We put a lot of work into this game and we were rewarded.

“We made the start we wanted to with Ruan Combrinck scoring after six minutes and while we let in two soft tries in the second half, which brought them back into the game, we fought hard to keep them out in the closing stages.

“The guys didn’t panic and showed great composure. That’s something Lions teams of the past may not have done. The growth in this team from just last year has been huge,” said Ackermann.

Whiteley said: “They’ve got some of the best backs in the competition and yes we gave them two tries, but I thought our backs defended really well. We closed their space and put them under pressure.

“This was a game where we had to be physical and in their faces and we were. We had to front up and we did.”

The Lions go to Newlands to see if they can put the cherry on top of what has been a hugely impressive campaign. - The Star

Original source: Only a win will do for Lions

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