Bulls did 'touring' Lions no favours
The Blue Bulls may have put a spanner in the Golden Lions' carefully orchestrated tour plans.
Johan Ackermann's Lions have 'invaded' Bloemfontein – the venue of their Round Six Currie Cup encounter with the Free State Cheetahs – since last Sunday.
It was a carefully planned mid-season 'tour' that is meant to take the sting out of a travel schedule that tripped up the men from Johannesburg last year.
Ackermann, speaking to this website ahead of Friday's encounter with the Cheetahs, admitted that he decided a year ago to avoid the series of arduous bus trips that caused so much trouble.
As a result, they travelled from Kimberley to Bloemfontein last Sunday, after their encounter with Griquas the day before.
"Last year I decided if we have this same sequence [of games], Griquas and Cheetahs [in back-to-back matches] I would prefer to stay here [in Bloemfontein],' Ackermann told this website, when asked why they based themselves in South Africa's judicial capital.
"We would only have arrived back [after a long bus ride] in the early hours of [last] Sunday morning," the Lions mentor said, adding: "That means on Monday you have a group of very tired and stiff players. That affects your training [in the build-up to the next game].
"You basically only train Tuesday and by Wednesday you are back on the bus back to Bloemfontein again.
"This [travelling straight from Kimberley to Bloemfontein] saved us a lot of travelling time and gave us a chance to give the players additional rest, which we did not have last year – we made a mini tour of it."
Ackermann said the additional time allowed them to pay more attention to the recovery side of the game and also spend time together and work on the errors they made against Griquas.
"We hope the extra two days helped us to resolve any remaining problems and we'll see the results [against the Cheetahs] on Friday," he said.
The Lions coach said the one aspect that could throw a spanner in the works is the results of last week's matches.
"The [Blue] Bulls did us no favours by beating the Cheetahs," Ackermann said, adding: "That would have angered the Cheetahs and it will make it an even tougher game."
However, there was a need for the players to spend time away together.
"Bees [Jacobus Roux] is basically new," he said of the 31-year-old tighthead prop who will be making his Lions debut on Friday after training with the team all season without getting game time.
"The guys are getting to know him.
"[Under-21 lock] Ruan Venter is a young player who made his debut against Griquas [last Saturday] and he gets a chance to rub shoulders with a Springbok in Franco van der Merwe.
"That will mean a lot to us in the future.
"Guys like Robbie Coetzee and Willie Wepener will get to know each other better.
"There are many new faces that will get to know each other better – this way you build a team.
"It is a plan we put in place some time ago and it is working out well for us that we can spend time together at this [halfway] stage of the season and get top know each other better."
By Jan de Koning