It's now time to put the feet up and get some rest..
The Lions will enjoy their second bye this week knowing that when they return they will have to win four games on successive weekends if they’re to go all the way and lift the Super Rugby trophy.
Johan Ackermann’s men ensured that this is the path they will have to follow after registering 13 wins from 14 matches so far, the latest being Saturday evening’s 94-7 thrashing of the Sunwolves at Ellis Park.
What made the victory - and performance - so remarkable is that it came five weeks after the Lions last ran out together as a team, before the June Test break. One would have expected there to be some rust in the game of the South African form side, but there was no such thing as they ran in 14 tries.
It was such an emphatic perform-ance that Ackermann was able to pull most of his Springbok players from the action in the second half, put scrumhalf Faf de Klerk on at No 10 and move Kwagga Smith, pictured, to the wing.
“I didn’t expect that (kind of performance),” admitted Ackermann afterwards. “But credit to the players ... it shows their commitment to getting together as a team again (after the break). We’re so blessed that things clicked so well for us tonight.
“I couldn’t be more satisfied with the outing ... to be able to play Faf at 10, move Kwagga onto the wing, take off the Springboks, and get through the game with no injuries ... that is so pleasing.
“Now some of the guys will be given a rest, while others who haven’t played so much will continue to train. I want us to come together on the Monday before the Sharks game with everyone 100 percent fit, physically and mentally.”
The Lions dominated every aspect of Saturday’s game, with several players producing performances of the highest standard, among them Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, the loose-trio of Jaco Kriel, Ruan Ackermann and Smith, and at the back Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Ruan Combrinck. While the bench made a huge impact.
Ackermann said he was most pleased with the fact his team stayed within its structure and plan even though the visitors hardly challenged them. “One can always argue about the opposition and their challenge, but the good thing is we maintained a decent structure, played good rugby throughout, and I thought the intensity was high regardless of what they gave us. It’s so easy to become individualistic in a game like this, but that didn’t happen.”
The win leaves the Lions on 61 log points, while the unbeaten Crusaders have 63 ... and both have one regular season game remaining. After this week’s bye, the Lions will travel to the Sharks, while the Crusaders go to Wellington for a date with the defending champions, the Hurricanes, on the same weekend. If the Lions win and the Crusaders lose, Ackermann’s team will finish top of the pile and give themselves their best chance of winning the title as they’d play all their knockout games at Ellis Park.
“We might have won the Conference trophy, but nobody will remember that in a few years ... they only remember the Super Rugby title winners,” said Ackermann. “Whatever happens now on the log is out of our hands; all we can do is keep on winning and hopefully the Crusaders slip up somewhere.”