Lions in strong position for Super Rugby title

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 09:24

REACTION: After finishing on top of the Super Rugby standings for the 2017 season, The Lions are in a strong position to go all the way can become the first South African team to win the title in seven years.

The Lions' 27-10 win over the Sharks was enough to get Johan Ackermann's side to the summit in the standings after the Crusaders lost the Hurricanes earlier on Saturday.

It means the Lions will have the luxury of not travelling during the course of the play-offs should they go all the way.

"One has to take confidence and joy by being first and now you know there is no game that you will play away from home - It's in your own hands," Ackermann told reporters after the match.

"We are definitely in a better position [to win the title], but in saying that the reality is to get there, we have to be better, because everything is zero now. 

"The log points is not going to mean anything for us."

The Lions will meet the Sharks in the quarterfinals next weekend in Johannesburg and after already posting two wins against the side from Durban, the Lions will be confident of progressing to the semifinals.

However, Ackermann will not let his team fall into a potential trap by looking at past performances.

"To me, if you look at our season last year, the Crusaders came and beat us at Ellis Park and then we replayed them in the quarterfinals and we beat them. So, what I am saying, it is a new game totally. I don't think any of the teams can read anything.

"It is going to be a new 80 minutes. Both coaches I believe will look at tactics and see where they can adjust. 

"It is going to be an 80-minute performance, where the side with the least mistakes under pressure, as well as penalties and discipline, will come into play.

"We are not going to look back at that game [Lions' 34-29 win against the Sharks on April 1] or tonight's [Saturday] game. 

"We are going to start fresh and respect them for what they can bring. 

"It is nice to play at home, but it is not going to the job for us if we don't pitch up and put in a better performance than tonight," Ackermann added.

Ackermann acknowledged that his team will have to improve certain aspects of their game ahead of the quarterfinal clash.  

"I don't think we played with enough intensity, if you compare the other games [in Round 17], I think we all got a lot of hard work to do if we want to go further in the competition.

"From our side, we can only judge ourselves. Just with our accuracy, where we lost ball in contact and it was not good enough. 

"I'm proud of the guys for achieving what they did in the season by being on top of the log and being in the play-offs. 

"The Sharks are going to always test you. The last game at Ellis Park [between the two sides] was also a dogfight and nothing changed today [Saturday]," said Ackermann.

2017 Super Rugby Quarterfinal Draw:
 
QF1: Lions [1] versus Sharks [8]
QF2: Crusaders [2] versus Highlanders [7]
QF3: Stormers [3] versus Chiefs [6]
QF4: Brumbies [4] versus Hurricanes [5]
 
Quarterfinal Match Schedule (all times local):
 
Friday, July 21: Brumbies v Hurricanes, Canberra - 19:35
Saturday, July 22: Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch - 19:35
Saturday, July 22: Lions v Sharks, Johannesburg - 14:30
Saturday, July 22 Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 17:00
 
Semifinal Draw:
Pre-determined draw as follows (highest ranked team to host):
 
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF4
SF2: Winner QF2 v Winner QF3

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Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
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Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
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Kings 15 6 0 9 28