Johannesburg - Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes a repeat of the performance against the Hurricanes last week in the Super Rugby semi-final 'won’t be good enough' to win this week and that his team need to be much better if they are to lift their first trophy in the competition.
According to the SuperSport website, Ackermann’s team came back from 22-3 down after 30 minutes in the game to win 44-29 and book themselves a sold-out home final in front of a packed 61500 fans this coming Saturday against the Crusaders.
The seven-time champions, the Crusaders are still the only team to have won a Super Rugby title outside their home country, and will be confident as they enter the final even though they have to contend with altitude and a fearsome home crowd.
Ackermann also has his last game in charge of the Lions before heading to Gloucester and is hoping to go out on a massive high.
But he has warned that it won’t be easy and his side will need to overcome the best scrum and lineout in the competition if they are to win.
“What a massive challenge but in saying that it is a great privilege, because of the history and what the Crusaders mean to rugby. They’ve been admired, even in my days as a player, they were one of the toughest games,” Ackermann said to Trackside Radio New Zealand host Glen Larmer in an interview on Wednesday.
“You look at the players they have, we’ve analysed but we can analyse as much as we want to. If we don’t do our part, our small things correct, they will punish us. We focus more on us, to get our things 100 percent correct and to know exactly what we want to do, because we know there is no margin for error against a side like the Crusaders. The basics, they’ve got a great scrum, they’ve got a great lineout. They have 96 percent success rate there. Defensively they kept out all the teams in the playoffs, only conceded one try in 160 minutes of playoff rugby so we know we are up against a great defensive side.
“It will come down to an 80 minute performance. If we have a performance like last week, a 60 minute, 50 minute performance won’t be good enough.”
Ackermann paid tribute to the support of the Lions Rugby Union once again after praise was heaped on him for taking the Lions from being out of Super Rugby to their second consecutive final.
“It’s nice to take the credit but there are so many people that must take the credit. My assistant coaches, my management, the medical staff, the players who put in a lot of tremendous work. We started coming back into Super Rugby in 2014 and we said we wanted to play a different brand of rugby, we wanted to play an exciting brand of rugby, and our players enjoy the game. We wanted players that care for each other on and off the field. We established a culture on and off the field, more than rugby. Obviously trophies are nice and winning is nice but we wanted to have better players off the field. We invested a lot of time, seeing where we can improve with those players as men. It was a great journey and we are really blessed. It isn’t just us, the Lord blessed us and there is a camaraderie among players.
“Like I said behind the scenes there are people, our CEO, President that help us. They see where we can improve with the off-field facilities. The knock financially when we went out of Super Rugby was quite big and we fell a bit behind in certain areas. We got players who were disappointed, who came from different unions and they weren’t seen as good enough over there. What I saw there was character in the players. We saw we had an opportunity to build something if we work hard.”
Losing out as a player in the 2007 final, Ackermann said a victory on Saturday would go some way to erase that memory, but he was already satisfied with seeing the stadium sold out for the final.
“That will put a bit of comfort, still I haven’t watched that final again since then because it was such a big disappointment. When you’ve won the final in one minute and a minute later you’ve lost it, it is probably better to know 10 minutes to go that you’re going to lose it. It will be satisfactory to lift that trophy. Last year we were close but not close enough, so it will be great.
“But because it is my last game at the Lions, I can’t ask for better. I told the players victory will be great for South Africa, but it is almost a wish come true to finish my last game as a coach at my home field, seeing it sold out with massive support. If you think where we started back in 2014, with not a lot of support, not a lot of Springbok players, not a lot of people watching our matches, so it is a great thing to walk away from.”