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    Lions aim to finish strong

    2014-07-03 17:44

    Johannesburg - The Lions hope to finish their season in the way they started it, defying their critics and on the cusp of completing their best ever Super Rugby season since their franchise was formed.

    They face the Rebels in their penultimate match at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday and, if victorious, would earn their sixth win of the season.

    "At the start of the season, nobody gave us a chance and nobody thought we would even win a single match," Ackermann said.

    "If we win these two matches, it would be one of the best seasons the Lions had in many years."

    The Lions returned to Super Rugby after a year in the wilderness and with few superstars to speak of, they surprised everyone winning their opening four matches.

    While the Super Rugby season was for all practical reasons over for them, they would be excused turning their focus towards the imminent Currie Cup season.

    However, Ackermann would not entertain such suggestions as the last two matches would determine their success in the franchise's first year back in the competition.

    "The players never gave up and we are again in that process where the most important match is Friday. If we can win the game it just adds to the season," Ackermann said.

    "We didn't say where we want to finish on the log -- it was never part of our planning -- we just said we wanted to put in everything week after week."

    The Lions contributed a new Springbok cap this season with flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff making his debut for the national side against Scotland in Port Elizabeth over the weekend.

    Boshoff embodied the fighting spirit of this Lions side as did many of his team-mates who were perennial benchwarmers at other unions before they joined the Johannesburg side over the last two years.

    Ackermann took pride in the way his players had rebelled against the idea that they had been mere fringe players.

    "If we look at how the players have grown and where they were a few years ago, when they didn't get the opportunity at other unions, and now they are Super Rugby players," he said.

    "The reality is that if we can keep these players together it can only get better in the future."

    Ackermann believed if they could keep this group of players together in the coming years they could be a force to be reckoned with by 2016.

    The Lions coach said they were the victims of their own success as there was suddenly interest in the players from other teams.

    The Rebels, meanwhile,were fresh off a 36-20 defeat by the Brumbies and would be looking to end a three-match losing streak.

    The tourists were in 14th place on the overall log, one position adrift of the Lions with a single point separating the two sides.

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