Lions to rely heavily on 'old hands'

Mon, 13 Jan 2014 07:31
Large warren whiteley mic Large johan ackermann looks Large warren whiteley lions

Lions coach Johan Ackermann spoke, exclusively, to Jan de Koning about the changes to his squad ahead of the 2014 Super Rugby season.

The Lions will field a much younger and very inexperienced squad in 2014, compared to their last appearance in Super Rugby in 2012.

However, coach Johan Ackermann said he would lean heavily on a handful of his most senior players - the old hands left over from two years ago - when they start their campaign next month.

The Lions mark their return to Super Rugby by taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, February 15.

But before that they have three pre-season games planned - against the Leopards at Ellis Park on January 24, the Southern/Eastern Province Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 1 and the Sharks at Ellis Park Stadium on February 7.

Ackermann said it is great to be back in Super Rugby.

"Last year this time we had no idea what was waiting for us and all we had [planned] was a bunch of friendlies," the Lions mentor told this website in an interview as his team stepped up their pre-season preparations.

"Now, a year later, we are back in the big time."

He added that the players were well aware of the enormity of the challenge ahead of them.

Ackermann, who will name his final squad on Thursday, January 30, admitted the Lions lost an enormous amount of experience.

"Back then [2012] we came out of a Currie Cup win [in 2011] and there were high expectations," Ackermann told this website.

"We didn't live up to expectations in 2012 and it would be an understatement to say our Super Rugby season was a disappointment," he said of the season that saw then head coach John Mitchell was sacked midway through the competition.

Their subsequent axing from Super Rugby - in the boardroom - resulted in the departure of many senior players, with a few more leaving during the course of 2013.

"In the meantime a whole bunch of new players arrived, there were changes at the top end and at the bottom of the union," Ackermann said, adding: "It is difficult to know where this team stands, because we also had a very fractured year in 2013.

"You have to ask the question: 'Was those friendlies, the Currie Cup and those promotion-relegation games [against the Southern Kings] enough?'

"Only time will tell if the experience gained by those new players will be enough.

"We look at players like Marnitz Boshoff, Jacques van Rooyen, Warwick Tecklenburg, Robbie Coetzee - they haven't played Super Rugby yet, but they are all in line to make the [final] squad."

The coach said he would lean heavily on the guys who remained from 2012 - the likes of Springbok Franco van der Merwe, Derick Minnie, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Michael Bondesio and Elton Jantjies.

"It is a fact that we are a very young and exciting group, but we also have an unknown group of players in terms of Super Rugby.

"That will be the big challenge, to see if we can rise to that level.

"We believe in our ability and we are working towards that goal, but there is no doubt the 2011/2012 team had far more experience - we had players like Jaco Taute, Wikus van Heerden, JC Janse van Rensburg, Joshua Strauss, Butch James, Waylon Murray, Bandise Maku, Pat Cilliers, Cobus Grobbelaar and Doppies la Grange in the squad still .

"We will lack a bit in terms of experience, but I am sure we will make up for it with enthusiasm, energy and players who are keen to play."

In December Warren Whiteley was named as captain, even though the squad has not been finalised.

"I still have a very large squad that I work with and I want one voice to speak to them," Ackermann told this website, adding: "They need to know, this guy is the captain - he must be the captain that gives direction from the outset.

"Warren [Whiteley] captained us when we won the Vodacom Cup [in 2013] and when we played [the Southern Kings] in the promotion-relegation games.

"He was injured after that, but I want to give him the opportunity.

"He has a lot of respect among the players and he is a good talker, because he is very comfortable in both Afrikaans and English - I feel he will be a good captain."

By Jan de Koning

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 25 February 2017
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 02 March 2017
Force v Reds 10h30 Perth
Fri, 03 March 2017
Chiefs v Blues 06h35 Hamilton
Connacht v Zebre 19h35 Ascoli Piceno
Edinburgh v Ospreys 19h35 Myreside
Ulster v Treviso 19h35 Kingspan Stadium
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 20h15 AJ Bell Stadium
Sat, 04 March 2017
Hurricanes v Rebels 04h15 Wellington
Highlanders v Crusaders 06h45 Dunedin
Brumbies v Sharks 08h45 Canberra
RESULT SCORE
Sat, 25 February 2017
Waratahs v Force 19 | 13
Crusaders v Brumbies 17 | 13
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 17 | 83
Fri, 24 February 2017
Munster v Scarlets 21 | 30
Dragons v Leinster 22 | 54
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 17 | 18
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 18 | 27
Reds v Sharks 28 | 26
Highlanders v Chiefs 15 | 24
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 18 | 56
Tue, 21 February 2017
CUT-Ixias v Shimlas 13 | 22
Mon, 20 February 2017
UJ v UP-Tuks 18 | 11
Maties v NMMU-Madibaz 35 | 16
UKZN-Impi v Fort Hare 16 | 10
NWU-Pukke v UCT-Ikeys 20 | 15
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Reds 1 1 0 0 4
Waratahs 1 1 0 0 4
Brumbies 1 0 0 1 1
Force 1 0 0 1 1
Rebels 1 0 0 1 0
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 1 1 0 0 5
Blues 1 1 0 0 5
Chiefs 1 1 0 0 5
Crusaders 1 1 0 0 4
Highlanders 1 0 0 1 0
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 0 0 0 0 0
Bulls 0 0 0 0 0
Cheetahs 0 0 0 0 0
Sunwolves 1 0 0 1 0
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Sharks 1 0 0 1 1
Lions 0 0 0 0 0
Jaguares 0 0 0 0 0
Kings 0 0 0 0 0