Ackermann’s men have already faced the Cheetahs - and beaten them - but that match was at Emirates Airline Park and against a team that is still trying to find its game under the coaching of Franco Smith. The Sharks, in Durban, will be an altogether different affair.
At stake will be second place in the South African Group. The Lions will go into the game on the back of a six-point defeat by the Crusaders, while the Sharks are coming off a bye, but they, too, lost to the Crusaders the previous week.
Todd Blackadder, head coach of the Crusaders, says it will be a close match, but feels the Lions could just edge their coastal rivals.
“You know it’s going to be a slippery ball in Durban. It’s greasy and quite humid down there and the Lions like playing with the ball in hand. The Sharks are a good team though so it will come down to a battle of wills ... it will depend on who capitalises on their chances,” said Blackadder after his side had beaten the Lions on Friday night.
“One team plays with the ball, the other plays without it. They’re contrasting styles ... but I like what the Lions are doing; they’re a very good side under Johan Ackermann.”
The Lions boss says all the pressure will be on Gary Gold and his men this week. “It’s a home game for them so they’ll be the team under pressure. They’re a quality side though, winning four of five matches; they’re very physical and they’ve got a number of key Bok players in the ranks.
“ It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but if we go down there with a positive mindset you never know what might happen.”
Lions skipper Warren Whiteley said his team would have to work hard to break down the Sharks’ strong defence. “It’ s a big week for us, we’ve got a lot of things we have to correct in our game (after the Crusaders defeat) and playing the Sharks away won’t be easy. They’re great in defence and their structures are starting to work well for them ... and on top of that the ball is probably going to be more slippery than we’re used to.”
Ackermann will this week spend a lot of time sorting out the mistakes that cost his team against the Crusaders on Friday and top of the list will be the one-on-one tackling and the performance at the breakdowns.
“The defence let us down at crucial times against the Crusaders, while we weren’t accurate enough at the breakdowns,” lamented Ackermann on Friday night. “But I thought we played some good rugby at times, attacked strongly, and we never fell away, so I’m proud of the effort. There was a stage during the game that I felt the game was getting away from us, but we fought back and at least bagged a point.”
Good news for the Lions is that Elton Jantjies (wrist) got through the game without a hiccup, while Jaco Kriel also showed no signs of the concussion that befell him two weeks earlier. Ackermann said he was hopeful of having a full squad to pick from this weekend. – The Star
Original source: Sharks will be a tough test for Lions