Lions' coach Johan Ackermann expects three difficult games in Australia. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Johan Ackermann says it is unrealistic to think the Lions will simply bag all 15 points on offer from their three matches in Australia.

Ackermann’s men are well placed in the Super Rugby standings having won seven of eight matches and will be the favourites against the Force, Rebels and Brumbies, but the Lions boss says his team will have to work very hard in the coming weeks if they’re to return home with a bag full of points.

“It would be extremely dangerous for us to think too far ahead, to believe we’re just going to pick up 15 points on tour,” Ackermann said.

“The reality is it is still a tour where we are out of our comfort zone, the weather and fields are different, and we’re playing in other teams’ backyards ... they’re going to make things extremely hard for us.

“We’re also not the side we were a year ago ... there are eight different players in the matchday squad to who played in the final last year.

“You just can’t underestimate anyone in this competition; no-one just rocks up and wins. Look at what the Kings did a week ago (against the Waratahs) and two of the teams we’re up against on tour are fighting for their survival in the competition.

“We’ll have a target on our backs and they’ll be desperate to put up a good show against last year’s finalists.”

The Force, who the Lions are up against on Saturday, are one of the sides in danger of being chopped from Super Rugby next year, and so, too, are the Rebels, who the Lions face next weekend.

Ackermann will be keen to see his team start the tour well and show an improvement from their close call against the Jaguares last weekend. To freshen things up, he has made some changes to his side, recalling Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen to the front row, while Kwagga Smith starts ahead of the injured Jaco Kriel.

At the back Faf de Klerk rotates with Ross Cronje, who sits out this week because of a leg injury, while Sylvian Mahuza replaces Madosh Tambwe on the right wing.

“The Force have been in many of their contests until late on in many of their games, but a few mistakes have cost them dearly, like against the Chiefs last week,” he explained.

“So, if we can keep the pressure on until the end and be in it, hopefully our bench will be able to play a big role. We’re, however, going to have to play well and lift our standards from last week and take the opportunities when they arrive.”

Lions team:

Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Dillon Smit, Jacques Nel, Anthony Volmink

Force team: 

Marcel Brache, James Verity-Amm, Curtis Rona, Bill Meakes, Alex Newsome, Luke Burton, Ian Prior, Isi Naisarani, Matt Hodgson (capt), Brynard Stander, Ross Haylett-Petty, Lewis Carmichael, Tetera Faulkner, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan. Replacements: Heath Tessmann, Ben Daley, Shambeckler Vui, Onehunga Havilli, Richard Hardwick, Mitch Short, Jono Lance, Peter Grant

The Star

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