Rugby: Lions coach reveals who he wants to see in final

Lions coach Johan Ackermann has led his team all the way to a home semi-final and will be honored if his team get the chance to contest the title. Photo / Getty
Lions coach Johan Ackermann has led his team all the way to a home semi-final and will be honored if his team get the chance to contest the title. Photo / Getty

Lions Super Rugby head coach Johan Ackermann has spoken about how resting his players is paying off and who he would like to face should his team make the Super Rugby final this season in an interview with Radio Sport.

Ackermann was quick to heap praise on the Crusaders outfit his Lions dismantled in last week's Johannesburg quarterfinal 42-25.

"We obviously are honored and grateful for the victory and I obviously have huge respect for the Crusaders, for Todd Blackadderand also for that Crusaders team for what they've achieved in Super Rugby."

The Lions are now preparing for their home semi-final against the defending champion Highlanders.

"A few guys we still have to get through a bit of rest and recovery some guys we'll make a late decision on, but other than that the guys are in a good spirit and looking forward to another tough challenge."

Ahead of their quarter final last weekend, the Lions were coming off a loss to the lowly Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Ackermann made the decision to leave several key players in South Africa for the match to rest, and has commented on the impact of that decision.

"It was a tough decision, we debated quite a lot."

"We felt that mentally the guys needed to refresh and then we took the gamble of sending not the strongest side to Argentina."

However, the team members left behind were not given complete rest as they still participated in the usual training routine.

"We still kept the guys training although they didnt play they kept on the same routine they would from a Monday to a Friday. We kept them training with my two assistant coaches that didn't go with me to Argentina."

"It was just that mental break more than a physical break."

The Lions have improved significantly since being re-introduced to the competition in 2014, and Ackermann puts it all down to his team.

"That continuity and the belief in eachother started to grow, and execution of what we've done has started to pay dividends. Maybe those factors are a big part of the success."

"I think there's a great team spirit, we've come a long way and have a lot of belief in each other."

Should the Lions defeat the Highlanders this weekend and advance, they will play either the Chiefs or Hurricanes in the final.

"I probably will support the Chiefs this weekend, then we can play at home" said Ackermann.

Ackermann is excited at the prospect of the other semi-final match up.

"The Hurricanes were just sublime this past weekend so it's going to be a magnificent game to watch."

But at the end of the day, just being there is enough for him and his Lions side.

"If things go our way, I'll just be honored to play in the final of this competition."

- NZ Herald

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