Coach Johan Ackermann of the Lions (right) and captain Warren Whiteley address a media conference in Johannesburg on Thursday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Coach Johan Ackermann of the Lions (right) and captain Warren Whiteley address a media conference in Johannesburg on Thursday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The Bulls may have dined from the canvass of late‚ but the high-flying Lions are reading more into the Pretoria side’s pedigree than their recent lean pickings.

The two clash at Ellis Park on Saturday and they will go into the Super Rugby match having experienced contrasting fortunes this year.

The Bulls have suffered a full seven defeats‚ the last two‚ painful for different reasons‚ at home against the Crusaders and the Highlanders.

The Lions have just returned from an unbeaten three-match tour of Australia and although their confidence is in the stratosphere‚ captain Warren Whiteley has urged his teammates to keep their feet rooted.

"You can’t underestimate anyone in this competition‚" Whiteley warned. "I don’t need to mention what we’ve seen over the last couple of rounds. Anything can happen.

"As a player you need to keep your feet grounded.

"They are going to fight. They are going to be determined and we know they have quality players. It will be one helluva game‚" said Whiteley.

Coach Johan Ackermann nodded in agreement‚ before noting that the young players the Bulls had started introducing made them a difficult team to put in a box.

"It is a perfect opportunity for young players‚" said Ackermann. "You know they will bring energy. They want to show the coach that they can play at this level. That makes them dangerous because they have nothing to lose."

The Lions will start with their first-choice front row of Jacques van Rooyen‚ Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer.

Despite the long-term injuries to highly rated props Julian Redelinghuys and Dylan Smith, Van Rooyen, Marx and Dreyer have scrummed with mongrel and menace this season.

The Lions are second on the table and with their international travels behind them‚ they can quite reasonably set their sights on a place in the top two.

The three wins in Australia further emboldened their claim.

"It has kept us in the hunt for that play-off spot‚" Ackermann noted modestly.

"We can control our destiny and we don’t have to hope this one beats that one and so forth."

Faf de Klerk’s exclusion from the Springbok training squad did not fuel his decision to take up a contract in England‚ the scrumhalf said on Thursday.

De Klerk announced that he would join English Premiership side Sale Sharks when Super Rugby ended‚ but he wasn’t leaving with any grudges.

"I don’t think not being in the camp had a big influence on my decision," he said.

TMG Digital

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