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    Ackers: I'm treasuring every minute

    2017-08-04 06:58

    Lloyd Burnard - Johannesburg

    Johannesburg - Lions coach Johan Ackermann knows that Saturday's Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at Ellis Park will be drenched in emotion, regardless of what the result is. 

    It will be Ackermann's final match in charge of the Lions before he heads off to Gloucester in the English Premiership, and it will spell the end of one of the most successful coaching stints Ellis Park has ever seen. 

    This week, Ackermann has given his players a clear message: Enjoy the occasion, and play with freedom. 

    With Ellis park sold out, this will be the first time that some of these Lions players have experienced playing in front of so many people. 

    The noise, the atmosphere, the pressure ... it will all make focusing on the processes and delivering on the day a major part of the Lions challenge.

    Ackermann, though, has re-iterated to his players that the result on Saturday will not change what they have achieved over the past four seasons. 

    A win would obviously be the perfect send-off, but the coach is just trying to enjoy what little time he has left with his players.

    "I'm just embracing everything ... embracing the time with the players," he said from Ellis Park on Thursday.

    "I wanted to play up until the last week so that I could treasure every minute with them, but now that hourglass is running out too.

    "I know emotions will be involved on Saturday. If we win, everybody will smile and if we lose, everybody will be sad."

    But part of what has made this Lions group so special over the past few years is that they have always put things in perspective.

    A largely religious group, the coach and players spent Thursday morning "praying for each other and blessing each other", savouring the moments they have left together. 

    "My respect for the players and how they supported me as a coach will never change," Ackermann added.

    "What they have achieved as a group ... it's a pleasure to wake up in the morning and come all the way from Pretoria to coach these guys. The result on Saturday is not going to change that."

    Kick-off is at 16:00.

    Teams:

    Lions

    15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen

    Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

    Crusaders

    15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

    Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge

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    Fixtures

    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15

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