Lions to enjoy their bye week
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Lions coach Johan Ackermann will be enjoying the fact his team has a bye this week but you could almost hear the relief in his voice when he said “the bye couldn’t come at a better time.”
According to the supersport.com website, Ackermann’s team have surprised all in the competition with their four wins in six games thus far and their fourth spot on the Vodacom Super Rugby log, and while many don’t expect them to be there when the competition reaches its business end, for now the Lions are simply enjoying themselves.
They know they got the rub of the green with refereeing decisions in the last two games, but the luck they created for themselves also plays a major part in the self-belief of a team that everyone has written off thus far this season.
Saturday’s game against the Reds was a special win for Ackermann and his sidekick Swys de Bruin.
And with every week their belief keeps on going.
Ackermann is obviously hoping the team can retain the momentum after the break, but has been honest enough to admit the break, coming in week seven while other sides have had a break already, is very necessary for a side that leaves it all on the field every week.
“The momentum needs to stay and hopefully the players’ belief in each other will continue to grow,” Ackermann explains, “The biggest thing is to keep the guys fresh. Hopefully the guys who played in the Vodacom Cup came through well and didn’t pick up any injuries, I hope that these two weeks will be enough to sort out all the niggles.”
And it is important. Other than players such as Alwyn Hollenbach and Elton Jantjies who were in the Vodacom Cup last week, there are now worries about Franco van der Merwe, Coenie van Wyk and Deon van Rensburg. All three picked up injuries in the game against the Reds and while no medical report has been released just yet, the Lions are hoping a week of rehab will do them well.
The team will return close to full strength against the Crusaders in just more than a week and if ever there was a game that will test their resolve, this is it.
Already having won plaudits for their fighting strength, Ackermann is set to continue with his mantra of not talking about victories, but rather that the “players enjoy themselves”.
Just how long the success can last is anyone’s guess, but it is a ride that has their supporters crowing after returning to the competition this year after a year in the wilderness.
And with no overseas team having won in South Africa yet after six rounds this year, the Lions supporters can finally start talking about a fortress of their own.
Ackermann and his team may have used up their luck in the past few weeks, and the week off is a welcome relief for the team.
But come next week they will have to show more than simple enthusiasm and fighting spirit.