Ackermann filled with pride
Ockert de Villiers, Sport24
Johannesburg – Lions coach Johan Ackermann has hailed his side’s come-from-behind 28-23 victory over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby encounter in Johannesburg on Saturday as one of the best of his career.
Ackermann admitted his side’s determined fight-back which saw them reduce a 17-point half-time deficit to claim the win added a few more grey hairs to his head.
"To come back against that team from being down 20-3 it is probably one of the best results and I am very proud of the guys," Ackermann said.
"The fact that they (the Highlanders) came off a massive win against the Sharks, they play with a lot of creativity, and they have a lot of game breakers.
"This must be one of the top wins considering that we came back from where we were against such a quality team so it must be up there."
In the process, the Johannesburg pride equalled their best winning-record in a Super Rugby season with their seventh win to keep their hopes of reaching the playoffs alive.
With four more matches left before the playoffs, Ackermann’s charges are on the cusp of making this their best season yet.
However, Ackermann said this would mean nothing if they did not keep their playoff hopes alive by winning their remaining matches of the regular season.
"The importance of today was to keep us up there with the others, so we are grateful for that and it is good on the winning column," he said.
"There are still tough games ahead and if we want to make it a successful campaign we still need to work hard.
"If we picked up a win or two early on in the season we could have been in a better position to talk about the playoffs.
"We did not get the bonus point so our whole season will rely on winning."
Even if the Lions continue on their superb run in the competition they are not guaranteed a position to contest for the title.
They have moved up to eight position on the overall log on 31 points - only three points behind the sixth-placed Bulls.
The Lions displayed immense character in the second half to run in three tries and limiting the Highlanders to a drop-goal.
Playing catch-up rugby is a bad habit the Lions have fallen into this season and it could be anyone’s guess what they would be able to achieve if they were to dish up 80-minute performances.
"Some stuff that we did in the first half weren't good enough just looking at our breakdown and keeping hold of the ball," Ackermann said.
"We lost ball in contact and then our lineouts while defensively there were one or two instances where we went out of our system.
"We couldn’t build pressure on them but the guys responded well in the second half with another nervous ending and another few years added to all of us."
Lions captain Warren Whiteley said they were not satisfied with their first-half performance and would continue to work hard to produce good performances throughout the match.
"We still feel that we are not playing to our full potential yet and we still have soft moments in the games where we tend to make it difficult for ourselves and fight back," he said.
"This team has so much potential and we are just going to keep working hard that is the nature of this side.”