Lions not out for revenge in Hurricanes semifinal
Coach Johan Ackermann backs misfiring goal kicker Elton Jantjies, saying a lot of players make mistakes
The last time the Lions squared up against the Hurricanes‚ the South Africans side got a sense of why the team from Wellington adopted that moniker.
The Lions failed to warm to the occasion of the Super Rugby final largely because the Cake Tin (Westpac Stadium) resembled a cooler box thanks to an icy breeze that swept in across the Cook Strait. The Lions thought they were within touching distance of the trophy‚ but in the end could barely feel the tips of their fingers.
Conditions could not be more different when the teams meet in the semifinal at sunny Ellis Park on Saturday.
Having travelled all that way in 2016 only to encounter conditions that had the players spluttering like cats in water‚ one would have forgiven the Lions had they developed a taste for retribution.
"We haven’t looked at last year once‚" said Lions coach Johan Ackermann in reference to the final‚ as well as the 50-17 league defeat the Hurricanes inflicted on them at Ellis Park.
"We haven’t spoken about revenge and if there is talk about that it is from the media.
"It makes them favourites‚ definitely‚" he said.
"A lot has changed though. Both teams have lost players. For me it’s zero-zero‚ a clean slate. The reality‚ however‚ is that they are a quality side.
"I think both sides will play an exciting game. They have quality players at the back."
The biggest threat is the tourists’ flyhalf Beauden Barrett‚ who has already found his groove on the Highveld by hitting a hole in one at Steyn City on Wednesday.
Ackermann said his team would not pay too much attention to Barrett.
They are equally dismissive when they are reminded that they topped the points table without being tested by New Zealand opposition.
"We have experience playing against them and I’m hoping the players can tap into that. We can only play what is in front of us. You have to do some good things if you finish number one‚" countered Ackermann.
Despite underperforming against the Sharks last week‚ they have retained the same starting line-up.
"There was some debate over certain positions in terms of where we think the game will go. The players realise the game we played last week is not going to be good enough."
Ackermann backed flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who misfired last weekend. "A lot of players made mistakes. With Elton it is more obvious because he is the goal kicker. Every player is big enough to know where he needs to improve. We have a lot of faith in Elton and have made the point that he can play at any level."