'This is it' for Lions
Lions coach Johan Ackermann says that unless someone gives them a lot of money he will not be doing any recruiting ahead of Super Rugby.
After being knocked out of the Currie Cup in their semifinal defeat to the unbeaten Western Province at Newlands, focus for the Johannesburg franchise now shifts to their re-entry into Super Rugby.
However, having recently picked up a few promising former Varsity Cup players in Ricky Schroeder and Courtnall Skhosan, the Lions will not be adding to their playing stocks.
When asked by this website about his plans, Ackermann said that he is set to work with what he has already and sees next year as a starting point after a year in the wilderness.
"I think this is about it, unless someone gives us a lot of money, then these are the guys that must grow into that role.
"This is basically year one but we didn't even play Super Rugby so you can't even count that. Next year will be year one," he said.
Whilst there will be a few players back from injury next year, Ackermann also has a crop of players that have never played Super Rugby, and they will need to make the adjustment quickly.
"There are a lot of guys that must still come into the system. Obviously we can add Ruan Combrinck, Dylan des Fountain and Alwyn Hollenbach who are coming back from injury.
"Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen, Chris van Zyl, Marnitz Boshoff, Chrysander Botha, Robert de Bruyn – those guys must all still play Super Rugby and there are a lot of guys that are injured that haven't played Super Rugby before.
There are a lot of guys who join us for their first pre-season, and they are going to need it to getting them physically at the level that we want them," he explained.
The Lions coach said that he was proud of the effort his side showed at Newlands and throughout what has been a testing year for the union, but added that Province had been too strong.
"I am proud of the guys and the way they fought the whole game and this whole year, I think there was a lot of growth.
"In my eyes this was a Super Rugby match for us, playing against a full strength Western Province side and unfortunately you can't let in two tries like that," he said.
Ackermann added that the commitment his side showed on defence gave him a lot of heart, despite the fact that some crucial lapses led to the two Province tries.
"There were a lot of times that they looked like they were going to score and we really worked hard and scrambled to stop the attack.
"There was a lot of heart in our performance and there were a lot of guys who were playing in their first Currie Cup semifinal and they haven't even played Super Rugby yet so this was a big learning curve for them.
The Lions boss praised the Cape side, who will have a shot at making it an unbeaten season against the Sharks in a home final next week.
"There are no obvious weaknesses in the Province side, they have got a big pack of forwards and a guy in Catrakilis that can dictate with his kicking. Then they have got exciting backs, guys that have been around the block that can break your line at any time.
"Any team that wants to come here and match them they have to be good defensively as well, and then you have to have good set phases," he said.
By Michael de Vries