Super Rugby

Last year won't help Lions in final

Johannesburg - The scene is set perfectly for Johan Ackermann, whose last match in charge of the Lions will come in front of a packed Ellis Park crowd in a Super Rugby final. 

It is the perfect ending to the Ackermann era, which has seen the Lions go from tournament whipping boys to one of the best sides in the competition in just four seasons. 

Ackermann is off to Gloucester at the end of the campaign bringing and end to one of the most successful coaching stints in South African Super Rugby history. 

The only hurdle that remains is a clash against the Crusaders; a fair final given that both sides have lost only once all season. 

The Crusaders have conceded just one try in the play-offs and are as clinical as any side on attack. There is no tougher test for the Lions. 

The obvious concern is that the South Africans have only played against one New Zealand side in the tournament this year, thanks to the bizarre structure. 

And while they were too strong for the Hurricanes on Saturday, the Crusaders represent an entirely different challenge. 

In last year's quarter-finals, the Lions beat the Crusaders by a comfortable 17-points at Ellis Park, but Ackermann doesn't think that 42-25 will count for anything now. 

"To go back to last year is not going to help us. We have to reset," he said after Saturday's stunning comeback.

"We haven't achieved anything yet - we haven't got a trophy. The challenge for us is to train well and start on Monday.

"They're a quality side and they have shown it this whole season. Their background and history is all quality. It's going to boil down to 80 minutes."

On not having played any Kiwi sides in the group stages of the tournament, Ackermann said his side needed to be prepared for anything on the day.

"We can only play what's in front if us. We must be able to adapt," he said.

"We can analyse the Crusaders all week, but it will come down to what we do on the day.

"One thing I know is that there is always belief in this group, whether we're playing against Australian or New Zealand teams."

That belief was certainly present against the Hurricanes, but the Lions will need to be even better if they are to give Ackermann the perfect send-off on Saturday.

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24