No champagne for Lions

    2014-07-05 13:59

    Johannesburg - The Lions may have racked up their most victories in a Super Rugby season, but coach Johan Ackermann isn't ready to pop the champagne because of this milestone.

    His charges won their sixth match of the season with a 34-17 defeat of the Rebels at Ellis Park on Friday evening.

    Their previous best was five wins out of their 13 matches in the 2007 Super 14 competition where they finished in 12th place on the overall log.

    "To achieve that it is good but in the context of the competition it is probably not good enough," Ackermann said after the match.

    "You don't want to lie 13th on the log, you want to be up there and be involved in the playoffs so there is still a lot of room for improvement.

    "It is great to achieve that but it wasn't something we set out as a goal. As a young group together we wanted to perform well and we wanted to show we can play at this level."

    It was a disjointed affair and Ackermann offered the four-week break as a contributing factor.

    Before the June international window the Lions were in impressive form against the Bulls with a 32-21 victory at Ellis Park Stadium.

    "We realised tonight how much with the four-week break you lose composure, so hopefully we will be better next week," he said.

    Going into the half-time break the Lions held onto a slender four-point lead.

    Soon after the recess the Rebels took the lead with a converted try which saw the Lions claw their way back to finish with a flourish but missed out on a fourth try bonus point.

    "It almost felt like we lost there at the end, the whistle went and Swys [De Bruin, assistant coach] and I were not overjoyed," Ackermann said.

    "Only afterwards when the emotions went away we realised the effort was put went in. We were disappointed because we felt there was more than one opportunity in that last 10 minutes to get that bonus point.

    "It is with those small little errors that we are just not there and where a team like the Crusaders and the Sharks with their experience will break you down until they score."

    Lions captain Warren Whiteley said the replacements had a massive hand in their recovery in the final 20 minutes of the encounter.

    "It was important for us to keep our composure, to know it is an 80 minute game and if we up the intensity they well tire and the holes will come," Whiteley said.

    "The bench played a massive role in this game and they upped the intensity."

    Rebels coach Tony McGahan commended his players for their fightback after they conceded a try only two minutes into the match before the momentum swung in the Lions' favour late in the second half.

    "The way the guys fought back...the Lions put a lot of pressure on us," McGahan said.

    "There was a huge momentum swing and we were unable to get that back into our game."

    The Lions face the Cheetahs in Johannesburg in their final match of the season, with it being a possible tussle for the wooden spoon, while the Rebels finish their season off against the Bulls in Pretoria.

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