Johannesburg - The Free State Cheetahs will go into this weekend’s Currie Cup final as firm favourites, and will be very difficult to beat in the sort of confidence they are currently in.
According to the SuperSport website, that’s the view of Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann, whose side was ripped apart 55-17 by the Cheetahs during their semifinal in Bloemfontein this past weekend and while the Vodacom Blue Bulls may well have something to say about that, Ackermann is adamant that the Cheetahs are in a great space at the moment.
Terming his side’s day “a hard lesson learnt”, Ackermann praised the Cheetahs’ play and their resolve under coach Franco Smit in the game.
“Even our computers wouldn’t work, so what didn’t go wrong during the game?” Ackermann asked afterwards.
“We didn’t kick penalties, we didn’t tackle. We didn’t attack like we should have nor handle the ball like we should have. All that was good was our lineouts and scrums. We learnt a hard lesson, credit to the Cheetahs they played well.
“It would be interesting to see the Cheetahs team during Super Rugby and to see it now, how many changes there were since the last game they played.
“There must be a great team spirit, if you go unbeaten in a season you must be doing something right. There is a great team spirit and team unity. The 9s and 10s know each other and the centres know each other, they play with a lot of confidence.
“They will be a tough team to beat down here because they’ve settled into a great team and credit to Franco and his coaching staff. They will be tough to beat here.”
Despite a good year where his side featured in the Super Rugby final and Currie Cup semifinals, Ackermann said it was a difficult year for his side in the domestic competition, especially with the challenges of success and the lack of time to prepare for the domestic competition.
“If I look at the year in total, then I’m grateful, we’re really blessed to play in a Super Rugby final and to play in a Currie Cup semifinal with quite a new team,new combinations at centre. The secret in the Currie Cup is to win away from home, especially if you want to have a home semi and final. We did it last year.
“Last year we had a bit more time to prepare and we had a side that was more used to high intensity and if you look at our games in general, against the Kings we only played good rugby in the second half. The Sharks were 13-0 up before we started to play good rugby.
“We never played like in Super Rugby from the first minute with a certain intensity. Is it because we are integrating new players? Mentally we were challenged with no break at all from both coaches and players’ side.
“One weekend off. There were a lot of factors different from last year to this year and it is difficult to compare the two. From a wholelistic point of view, we were in a much better space last year than this year.”
The Lions will take a few weeks off before returning to start preparing for next year’s Super Rugby tournament.
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