Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann hopes the continuity in selection this week will help his team to become more consistent.
The defending Currie Cup champions currently find themselves second in the standings after winning three of their opening five matches. They have the same amount of log points as table-topping WP (15), but the Cape union boast a better points difference thanks to their impressive defensive record.
However, the Lions’ inconsistency has ultimately cost the team a better start to the campaign.
While they are in a strong position to qualify for the domestic play-offs, they have yet to win back-to-back games. Every triumph has been followed by a disappointing loss.
Ackermann has made no changes to his starting line-up from the side that beat the Blue Bulls 32-23 in Pretoria last weekend. He hopes this will give his players a platform to do well against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this Saturday.
‘The Currie Cup has been a tough challenge for everyone,’ Ackermann told keo.co.za. ‘The playing field is level because it’s strength versus strength every weekend. The team who will go on and win the tournament is the team that finds consistency first.
‘We improved in our performance against the Bulls last weekend, so I’m hoping my guys can build on that victory. That’s why I’ve named the same starting XV.’
Ackermann added that the Lions need to finish better and bolster their defensive systems.
‘We’ve been very inconsistent during the second half in all our matches. We need to finish well every weekend.
‘Our defence improved against the Bulls last weekend after a disappointing showing against Griquas [the Lions lost 42-32 against Griquas in Johannesburg], but it can still be better. We are slipping too many tackles.’
The Cheetahs were hammered 43-20 by the Lions at Ellis Park during the opening weekend of the campaign.
However, the men from Johannesburg will come up against a different Free State outfit as Naka Drotske has picked scrumhalf specialist Tewis de Bruyn in the No 10 jersey and Hendro Scholtz – who came out of retirement two weeks ago – at No 8.
‘The selection of Tewis at flyhalf definitely surprised me. I thought they’d go with Sias Ebersohn,’ said Ackermann. ‘This shows that they’ll be looking to use a strong tactical kicking game. They probably feel Tewis will do better than Sias in this regard.
‘[Lions flyhalf] Elton Jantjies is in great form and I’m confident he’ll play a big role for us.
‘With Hendro in the pack, we can also expect a strong physical approach up front from the Cheetahs. Hendro will help them in this regard as he carries the ball well and competes aggressively at the breakdowns.’
By Gareth Duncan