Currie Cup

'Tahs inspire ball-in-hand Lions

2014-10-24 08:12
Johan Ackermann (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The Golden Lions will draw inspiration from Super Rugby champions the Waratahs when they face Western Province Saturday in the  Currie Cup final.

The Sydney outfit became southern hemisphere champions for the first time this year through a ball-in-hand approach to a sport where tactical kicking is often the preferred option.

The Johannesburg-based Lions mirror the style of the Australians, scoring 50 tries in 11 matches en route to the final at Newlands, the Cape Town home of WP.

And 32 of those touchdowns came from forwards, led by nine-try flank Jaco Kriel, the leading try scorer in the inter-provincial competition this season.

"We have adopted a running style similar to that of the Waratahs," Lions coach and former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann told reporters.

"The Waratahs were criticised for playing too much running rugby, but they stuck to their beliefs and beat seven-time champions Crusaders in the final."

Ackermann is an ironic ball-in-hand disciple as he played for the Blue Bulls, whose cupboards of trophies stem from a kick-and-conquer culture.

But if Lions supporters thought Ackermann would turn the Lions into a spitting image of their Highveld neighbours when he took charge two seasons ago, they were gravely mistaken.

"We play the game to enjoy it," stressed the 44-year-old, capped 13 times by South Africa.

"I do not want a prop who can just scrum or a lock who can only jump. My props can pass the ball and my locks can run for 80 minutes."

Only three starters against Province - fullback Jaco van der Walt, fly-half Marnitz Boshoff and hooker Robbie Coetzee - have not claimed a try this season.

Chief goal-kicker Boshoff missed most of the 10-round league phase through injury before contributing 20 points to the semi-final demolition of title-holders Sharks last weekend.

But the Lions are not just a bunch of runners - front-rowers Schalk van der Merwe, Coetzee and Ruan Dreyer are superb scrummagers knocking on the door for Springboks selection.

And Kriel, Derick Minnie and No 8 and skipper Warren Whiteley are a multi-skilled loose-forward trio with the latter called up to the national squad this year.

However, a Province team captained by centre Juan de Jongh are slight media favourites to atone for a shock final loss to the Sharks in Cape Town last season.

They defeated the Lions 27-14 in the league phase at Newlands with right-wing Kobus van Wyk bagging a brace of tries.

Coach Allister Coetzee got a timely boost when outstanding No 8 Nizaam Carr was declared fit for a match offering the winners R1.9m.

"We have learnt from our mistakes last year and will not repeat them," promised the 51-year-old, who was part of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks coaching staff.

"I felt we had done our homework last season and were in the right space, but there was possibly too much emotion that week.

"There was also some emotion this week, but we are wiser now and have matured."

Province differ from the Lions in that 28 of their 43 tries came from a pacey, inventive backline with six-try De Jongh leading the way.

Fullback Cheslin Kolbe, a diminutive but deadly counter-attacker, and physically formidable Van Wyk have crossed the try-line five times each.

While Minnie is the lone surviving Lion from the 2011 title-winning team, fullback Jaco Taute, prop Pat Cilliers and flanker Michael Rhodes later moved to Cape Town and start for Province.

Read more on:    lions  |  currie cup  |  johan ackermann  |  rugby

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