Lions respect all opposition
Johannesburg - The Lions have made a point of treating all sides equally, irrespective of their reputation or current standing in this year's Super Rugby season.
This has clearly paid off for the Johannesburg side as they have claimed the scalps of past champions the Reds and South African powerhouses the Stormers since their re-entry to Super Rugby.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann reiterated this week that their approach would be no different when they take on seven-time champions Crusaders at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Seven rounds into the competition and the New Zealand giants certainly don't look like a champion side as they are languishing in 13th place on the overall log.
Ackermann, however, made it clear that they would show the Crusaders the respect deserving of a champion side.
"We haven't identified teams according to where they are on the log or what form they are in," Ackermann said.
"We are really focusing on the next job at hand and we respect the Crusaders as a team.
"Even if they came here unbeaten, we would play with the same intensity and the same attitude."
A lot will nevertheless be at stake for the Lions as they hope to tie up the next three matches on home soil before their next bye and their Australasian tour.
The Johannesburg-based franchise came through six weeks of non-stop rugby relatively unscathed and occupy fourth place on the overall log with 16 points.
If Ackermann's charges triumph over the Crusaders, it would be only their second victory over the side since 2007 when they beat them 9-3 at Ellis Park.
Considering the two sides' log positions and home-ground advantage, it would be tempting to tip the Lions to win the match.
However, Ackermann was quick to claim the underdog tag, knowing the pitfalls of underestimating a side like the Crusaders.
"They are the type of side that can easily turn their season around if some results go their way," Ackermann cautioned.
"We won't fall into the trap of thinking they are out of form and that they aren't the same Crusaders team of old.
"On the day they can beat any team -- they definitely have players who are good enough to do that."
The Lions have lost one of their most influential players in lock Franco van der Merwe, who has been ruled out for six months due to an ankle injury.
The side, however, has been boosted by the return of Andries Coetzee, who replaces the injured Coenie van Wyk at fullback, while Lionel Mapoe has also been called up to the starting XV.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, have been dealt a cruel blow with imposing captain and eighthman Kieran Read sidelined due to a concussion he sustained in their defeat by the Hurricanes at home last weekend.