The Lions – a Super success

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With a game to go in the regular season the Lions have won nine of 15 – two better than last year. And, let’s not forget Ackermann’s team also contested last October’s Currie Cup final which, and had Marnitz Boshoff had his kicking boots on, they could well have won.

It would not be wrong then to suggest the Lions have, over the last 16 months, been one of South Africa’s form teams. The growth and development under Ackermann and his coaching team has been remarkable.

Let’s not forget they missed out on Super Rugby completely in 2013 – making way for the Southern Kings – and lost players because of it. What Ackermann has achieved since then, after taking charge in the latter stages of the 2012 season, is nothing short of a miracle. It is also proof that with the right man in charge, the right type of players and the right attitude success is very achievable.

Big name stars and big bucks aren’t the way to getting a team to play successful, entertaining and winning rugby.

In less than four years Ackermann has built one of the most dynamic teams in Super Rugby, a side that not only plays clever, powerful attacking rugby, but is equally strong in defence. There are few weaknesses, with a focus still on good set-pieces, but the players have been given the freedom to play; they’re not boxed in to a certain style. Many of the players, deemed not good enough elsewhere, just wanted someone to believe in them.

Only four players in the current Super Rugby group featured for the Lions in the 2011 Currie Cup final – Alwyn Hollenbach, Elton Jantjies, Derick Minnie and Warren Whiteley. For the record, this was John Mitchell’s team that beat the Sharks 42-16: Jaco Taute, Deon van Rensburg, Doppies la Grange, Hollenbach, Michael Killian, Jantjies, Michael Bondesio, Joshua Strauss (capt), Michael Rhodes, Minnie, Franco van der Merwe, Wikus van Heerden, Patric Cilliers, Bandise Maku, CJ Van der Linde. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, JC Janse van Rensburg, Whiteley, Cobus Grobbelaar, Butch James, Dylan des Fountain, James Kamana.

Let’s be frank, the Lions were nowhere to speak of in 2012/13. Now they’re the talk of the town. Vodacom Cup champions, the Pumas, too, have had success because they’ve had the right coaching philosophy, but also players who’ve got a hunger to make something of themselves and their team.

Let’s hope other teams, like the Cheetahs and Kings, have taken note of what is possible, even if the resources and big bucks aren’t freely available. - The Star

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