Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg – Playing in possibly their last home Super Rugby game of the season, the Lions want to reward their supporters with a victory over the Waratahs in Johannesburg on Saturday.
After the weekend’s clash the Lions will travel to Cape Town where they will face the Stormers before they have a bye in the final week of the regular season.
“This is probably going to be our last home game in Super Rugby this year and the support has been phenomenal and we really want to put a performance that they (the supporters) can be proud of,” Lions captain Warren Whiteley said ahead of the crucial match.
As much as the Lions tried to sidestep the question of the side keeping their playoff hopes alive with a victory over the defending champions, it was unavoidable this week.
With two matches left of their campaign in the regular season the Lions can bow out with the knowledge that they have already completed their most successful Super Rugby competition with eight victories so far this season.
This Lions side, however, would not be content with that winning record and will be determined to make it 10 and book a playoff berth in the process.
“We want to win at home, it is almost non-negotiable, so if that is going to put us in a better position which it will then we will talk about the circumstances later,” Whiteley said.
“There are other permutations but we just need to keep on winning.”
Facing a possible knock-out match against the Australian Conference leaders, the Lions will be looking to get full points for their efforts and hope results elsewhere favour their rise up the table.
Asked whether the fact that their fate was in the hands relieved the pressure on his charges, Ackermann said the playoffs were the furthest from their minds.
“There is no log in our change room, there is no Super Rugby trophy and no external motivation, and we want the players to perform week by week,” he said.
“If the results keep us in the hunt then it is great but there are other things that we cannot control.”
Whiteley believed facing some of the best players Australian rugby had to offer would bring out of the best in the Lions players.
“It is something that excites us when you play against a quality side and that is definitely what excites us and it does bring the best out of us as players,” Whiteley said.
“It wasn’t the complete performance but it is in the right direction and where we want to go.”
Meanwhile, the Lions made a late change to the match-day 23 with scrumhalf Dillon Smit, on loan from the Leopards replacing Ross Cronje on the bench.
Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Harold
Vorster, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8.
Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5.
Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Armand van
der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx,
17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Kwagga Smith,
21. Dillon Smit, 22. Marnitz Boshoff, 23. Stokkies Hanekom
15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper,
12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps,
8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Dave Dennis (captain),
4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Sekope Kepu. 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes: 16 David Porecki, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Jacques
Potgieter, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt