Lions shift focus to Kings
Johannesburg - Lions coach Johan Ackermann hopes to have a host of his best players back for the two-leg South African Super Rugby promotion-relegation playoff matches against the Kings.
At the top of the list is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who has played for the Stormers the past season but will be available for the Lions' first match on July 26. The second leg match will be played on August 2.
The availability of Jantjies, however, may not be the solution Ackermann is looking for as Marnitz Boshoff has fulfilled the No 10 role well for the Lions this year.
"The players that we mainly rely on that I would like to see back on the pitch is Michael Bondesio, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie and Hendrik Roodt," Ackermann said after his side struggled to a 26-12 win over Griquas in their last warm-up game before the matches against the Kings.
"Then hopefully we'll get Franco van der Merwe and Elton fully fit back for us."
The Lions laboured against Griquas, battling to string phases together on attack but overall Ackermann was pleased with his charges.
"We showed that our scrum is still good but we must tick all the facets of the game and defensively there's still a bit to work on," he said.
Ackermann said his team needed to work on their ball retention as they lost too many balls in contact which robbed them of quick ball.
He admitted playing lower league opposition was a problem in the run-in to the promotion matches.
"We had a different attitude against the Sharks and the Bulls and we saw it in the body language of the players," Ackermann said.
"Today it was almost a case of just get this game over with, there's bigger games to come. We're not going to harp on too much about the game and we'll take the positives out of it and work on all areas."
The Kings will go into the game with the advantage of playing quality opposition all season and could be more 'battle-hardened' than the Johannesburg team.
"Time will tell, but they definitely have the edge with the intensity that they're now used to playing," Ackermann said.
"I believe our players are good enough to lift themselves up to that intensity.
"It could be two games too far for them or they can be quite used to the intensity."
Ackermann said it would be difficult to say who would be under more pressure in the playoffs.
"They want to keep playing in the competition and they've had a taste for it," he said.
"We want to get back in it, we know how good it is.
"Both camps have tremendous pressure on them and I don't think either team has more or less pressure on them."