Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg - With the home side only a victory away from clinching a Super Rugby playoff berth, Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes the Stormers will take a conservative approach in their match in Cape Town on Saturday.
“If the field is going to be bad (due to the weather), and it is a must win for them as they have an opportunity to reach the playoffs and we theoretically have an opportunity,” Ackermann said.
“If I were in their shoes I would play very conservative and tight because all they need is to win regardless of how they do it.”
Judging by the Lions’ team selection where they made the least changes to the side this year, the Johannesburg side will go out in a blaze of glory in their final match of the regular competition.
The Lions made one injury enforced change with Alwyn Hollenbach coming in for the injured Lionel Mapoe with Harold Vorster shifting to outside centre.
Throughout the season Ackermann stuck to a strict rotation policy but opted for continuity and with the team that cleverly routed the Waratahs last weekend.
For the Lions to sneak into the playoffs they will have to beat the Stormers and ideally with the full complement of points and hope the Sharks do them a favour the following week when they host the Capetonians in Durban.
Asked whether the Lions had their sights on a bonus-point victory, Ackermann said just getting the win was already a tall order against the leading South African franchise.
“To think about (earning bonus points) would be very arrogant, the first job is to just stay in the moment, play the game and let the result look after itself,” Ackermann said.
“If it is meant to be a win, if we get the bonus it would be a bonus but the Stormers are a quality side that deserve where they are (on the log).
“It is still not in our hands, even if we win there are so many other results that could go against us (to reach the playoffs).”
Ackermann said he prepared the team in the same way that he would in any other match throughout the season.
The Lions mentor said he hoped the team would look back on a successful season regardless of the result against the Stormers.
The Johannesburg side have won a record nine matches this season following their defeat over the Waratahs to make it their most successful season in the competition to date.
The last time the two sides met the Stormers travelled to Johannesburg in February to go away with a three-point victory over the Lions.
Ackermann said that match would not have much bearing on Saturday’s clash as the conditions will be different while both teams improved immensely since that encounter.
“We haven’t made a big thing about that match and we have since introduced new things to our game,” he said.
“They are the best scrum side in the competition, they have a good counter attack, and they are strong in defence.
“We know we have to match them in all of those are... and we just see it as another match where we have to do our best.”
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jaco Taute
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Harold Vorster, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Armand van der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Dillon Smit, 22. Marnitz Boshoff, 23. Howard Mnisi