Super Rugby

What Ackers told the Lions at half time

Johannesburg - The Lions that played the first half looked absolutely nothing like the Lions that played the second half of Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final at Ellis Park. 

Having let the Hurricanes race to a 22-9 lead, the Lions' first half performance was characterised by missed tackles - there were 15 of them - and unforced errors. 

They looked absolutely shell-shocked, and when the 'Canes had their third try of the half, it looked like the scoreboard was going to get messy from a Lions perspective. 

The hosts scored a try just before the break that coach Johan Ackermann says was crucial, as that gave them a glimmer of hope heading into half time. 

But the Lions performance of the second half was something special as they scored five tries to just one from the 'Canes. 

It was a comeback of the highest order. 

So, just what did Ackermann say to his troops in the changeroom that sparked such a revival? 

"We felt that if we could score behind, 22-10 sounds better than 22-3," Ackermann said.

"Then half-time was quite simple. The forwards, I felt, were good in the set phase so we didn't change much there.

"On attack we kept the same things, we just said that we were going to be a bit more direct.

"I asked the players to really lift their intensity and reset the whole score ... to forget the scoreboard. 'It's 0-0 ... let's just play 40 minutes of good rugby and whatever happens we can live with that'."

It clearly worked. 

The Lions, buoyed by their roaring home crowd, played with the freedom and intensity that has been a hallmark of their game all year. 

All of a sudden, it was the Hurricanes who looked stunned and they had absolutely no answer to the Lions onslaught. 

"It looked like they put the first half behind them," Ackermann said of his players. 

"They came out and played some great rugby in the second half.

"The guys showed a lot of character to recover from those setbacks."

Captain Jaco Kriel says that the side, even at 22-3 down, never lost hope.

"We spoke about it during the week and we said that in a play-off match if you're behind your poles the best thing you want is to be calm," he said.

"I really believe it came through today. Every time we were behind the poles, every player was calm. We got a message from coach and we took it in.

"We knew the momentum was going to turn is some way."

The Lions will now host the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final next Saturday. Kick-off will be at 16:00.

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