Johannesburg - Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann was having none of the mind games that he believes Western Province have been playing ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final.
The supersport.com website reports that Allister Coetzee’s assertion that the Lions are currently the favourites ahead of the showdown was rubbished by Ackermann, who laughed off the claim as Coetzee’s attempt at deflecting pressure.
But then the Lions coach upped the ante, saying that Province have a lot more pressure on them going into this final, especially after losing the same game to the Sharks in last year’s final, and will be desperate to win this time around.
Ackermann was in good spirits when a large media contingent pitched at the team’s training session, allowing the team a bit more spotlight than they are used to.
“I think that is a bit of mind games. I’ve also heard they say they don’t lose at Newlands so that definitely means they don’t to go in as favourites. I don’t think ending as number one on the log and playing the final at home doesn’t make you a favourite,” Ackermann said.
But then he turned up the pressure, saying Province would be under pressure to win, especially as the last two finals were won by teams playing away, and that their loss at home last year is something the Lions can hopefully exploit by putting them under pressure.
“Province will be under pressure at home and if we put them under pressure, hopefully there will be some flashbacks to what happened last year. Hopefully we can put that pressure on them. It shows that your can win away, and hopefully that’s another positive for us, negating the crowd a bit,” Ackermann said.
“If we played at home at Ellis Park, after the good win in the semis, and remember they had a good win in the semis. You can’t expect people not to come out to support them and expect them to win. That would happen to us if we were in that position, and I think people will be highly disappointed if they don’t do it. They have the expectation that because they beat everyone in the round robin they need to do that in the final.”
Ackermann likened playing at Newlands to test rugby, and said he was preparing his team for a hostile environment.
“The one thing about Newlands is that you’re going to get a good hostile crowd which stands behind their team. It is a great place to play at. I’ve always said to the players, if you haven’t experienced test rugby and you run out onto Newlands, its very close to it, because the pitch surface and the atmosphere is as close as it gets to playing in New Zealand and those countries,” he added.
For that reason his team shouldn’t get overexcited about their win in the semifinals, even if the scoreline was 50-20, and even Ackermann admitted his team still have a lot to do before the final.
“It’s so important that we stay on our weekly routine, and weekly process. Nobody else can have an influence on what we do, not the people in the stands, nor the people at home. We try and educate them that if we keep on doing the right things then we will get the positive result.
“I don’t think that scoreline was a true reflection. There was a momentum swing in the second half when we weren’t accurate and we need to work a lot. The only good thing about the 50-20 was that we have shown that we can score good tries and we can get the reward for hard work.”
The Lions will know that if they can get their free-flowing game plan going, few sides will stop them. Pressure is what is different about this weekend’s game and the coach knows all too well that whoever handles it the best will come out on top.
Still it’s clear that the Lions are confident and have nothing to lose.
Whatever Coetzee may make of their chances.