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Johan Ackermann

Lion’s Super Rugby and Currie Cup coach, Johan Ackermann

The Lions will field a revamped backline when they start their Currie Cup campaign early next month.

The high-flying Lions, fresh from their best Super Rugby season ever, face the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park on August 9 in the first round of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.

However, they will lose a host of their backline stars from the Super Rugby squad.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann, speaking to rugby365 in the wake of a three-match winning streak at the end of the Super Rugby season, said his forward pack will stay virtually intact.

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Lions & Golden LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union has named their CONTRACTED SQUAD for 2015. They also boast 4 Ex-Springboks amongst the Management and Coaching staff.

Kevin de Klerk, Rudolf Staeuli, Ashwin Willemse and Johan Ackerman, all Ex-Springboks are all in important positions at the Golden Lions Rugby Union, from President down to Head Coach.

 

Contracted Players:

The Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) has announced its new contracted player list for the 2015 season.

While financial constraints remain a challenge for the Lions, retaining talent remains their main priority. This is not unheard of as all South African unions have suffered financial constraints and must content with increasing pressure from the lucrative European and Japanese markets.

With the GLRU not yet covered by a title sponsor, the union has secured the input of several valuable partners to assist in the procurement process. Through building stronger relationships with stakeholders, the Lions put on a record-breaking Super Rugby showing, after the franchise’s return to top flight competition in 2014.

They finished the Super Rugby season in 12th spot, but surprised many pundits with their seven victories, capped by a 60-25 thrashing of the Cheetahs last weekend.

An established buy-in value system from coaching staff, players and management has seen the Lions secure the services of both top-class experienced and up-and-coming players.

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Warren Whiteley

Inspirational Lions captain, Warren Whiteley

The Lions exceeded expectations in their comeback season, while the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers all regressed, writes JON CARDINELLI. Take a bow, Johan Ackermann. The Lions came into this year’s competition with a public ambition to be competitive and a private ambition to avoid the wooden spoon. They exceeded expectations on every front, finishing the league stage with seven wins and in 12th place. That win total alone will ensure that the class of 2014 goes down in history. Their 34-10 hammering of the Stormers shouldn’t be forgotten, nor their two victories against the Cheetahs, nor that resounding win against the Bulls.

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Luther Obi

Luther Obi

The Vodacom Bulls have already lost their chance to bring Jacques Potgieter back, and now it seems they’re likely to lose another tussle with the Lions for the services of promising winger Luther Obi.

Obi has been seen as the long-term replacement at the Pretoria union for veteran winger Akona Ndungane, whose contract runs out at the end of the season.

But the Bulls were negotiating with Obi anyway, until they were told to stop by the Leopards Rugby Union as he still has a year to run on his contract.

The Leopards have made it clear that they will entertain a move for Obi for Vodacom Super Rugby if the Bulls want him, but that this will be subject to a transfer fee negotiation.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyThe Cell C Sharks will be the only South African team contesting the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs this year after the Vodacom Bulls slipped up in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon, shortly before the KwaZulu-Natalians’ title hopes were dealt a blow in Bloemfontein.

The team from Durban dropped one position to third on the overall standings after their shock defeat by 27-20 to the Toyota Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium. It was arguably the team from Bloemfontein’s best performance of the season as they moved up from the last spot on the log to 14th.

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers recorded the fourth-ever clean sheet in a local derby when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 16-0 at DHL Newlands. Just before the June-break, the Capetonians did the same when they beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 33-0 in Cape Town.

It will be only the third time in the last 10 years that the Vodacom Bulls will not feature in the playoffs.

The other two times a South African side failed to score any points in local derbies, were in 1999 when the Cell C Sharks beat the Vodacom Bulls by 29-0, while the team from Pretoria beat the Southern Kings by 34-0 last year.

In total, it was the sixth time ever a South African team were kept point-less in Vodacom Super Rugby and the Vodacom Bulls’ third zero. The Pretorians lost 27-0 to the Crusaders in Timaru in 2011 and the DHL Stormers lost 22-0 to the Crusaders in Cape Town in 2008.

On Friday evening, the Lions recorded their sixth win of the season when they beat the Rebels by 34-17 at Ellis Park, meaning 2014 will go down as the most successful for the team based in Johannesburg since the Cats franchise was dissolved before the 2006-season. Their previous best was five wins in 2007.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

With only two matches left in the round-robin stage of the 2014 Super Rugby competition, the Lions will be looking to finish with a flourish to complete one of their best seasons.

Coach Johan Ackermann said on Tuesday his team would be looking to bow out of this year’s edition with seven victories but they would first have to move past their first challenge against the Rebels in Johannesburg on Friday.

“After the break, these two games are almost a campaign on its own and in rugby you only get remembered for the last game you played,” Ackermann said at the team announcement on Tuesday.

“And if we don’t do well in the last two games, the Super Rugby season will be remembered as not being too good. The opposite side of the coin is that if we win the games, we can look back on a good season with a few mistakes.”

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Cell C SharksBullsStormersLionsCheetahsThe South African Conference resumes this weekend in Round 18, after watching the Australian and New Zealand franchises in action which ensured that there is likely to be only one team from the Republic in the finals.

The Sharks, long guaranteed the South African Conference, will finish in the top three while two more victories will ensure that Jake White’s team finish in the top two position and lock up a home Semi Final.

The Bulls still have an outside chance of reaching the Finals Series, but their hopes were dealt a blow with a 32-21 loss to the Lions before the June break.

The Stormers have become one of the premier spoilers in Super Rugby so far, while the Lions and Cheetahs have likely already begun planning for the Currie Cup and 2015 season.

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Franco van der Merwe

Franco van der Merwe

LionsSpringbok lock forward Franco van der Merwe has recovered fully from the ankle injury that forced him to miss much of the Lions’ Super Rugby campaign, and has been drafted straight in to the starting side by head coach Johan Ackermann for Friday nights clash against the Rebels at Ellis Park.

The big Springbok’s inclusion will add some most welcome steel to the Lions second row for the clash against the team currently 1 place below the home side on the combined log.

In is a game the Johannesburg based outfit will be desperate to win before faceing the Cheetahs in their final round robin game which may well decide the Wooden Spoonists of the SA conference, Ackermann will be hoping for a dispaly at least as intense as that which saw the Lions to victory over Gauteng neighbours the Bulls just ove a month ago.

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LionsLions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his 23-man side to take on the Vodacom Bulls in Saturday’s local derby encounter at Ellis Park.

In the forwards, Ackermann has made wholesale changes to the front row. Schalk van der Merwe, Robbie Coetzee and Julian Redelinghuys will all start.

Meanwhile, in the backline, Chrysander Botha will start at left wing, while Stokkies Hanekom comes in at outside centre. Courtnall Skosan will fill the right wing berth, having recovered from injury.

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Western ForceLionsThe Western Force scored their eighth win of the season and moved into second spot on the Australian Vodacom Super Rugby conference but the Lions can feel aggrieved at the circumstances that led to their 29-19 defeat in Perth on Saturday.

That scoreline doesn’t tell you how close it was for most of the way as the Lions simply refused to lie down in the second half against a Western Force team that was given a significant leg up by yet another diabolical TMO decision before halftime.

The Lions, determined to get one win on the road before heading back to Johannesburg, were leading 9-3 and looking well in control after a wet start to the game when loosehead prop Corne Fourie was yellow carded for what the TMO saw as a no arms tackle. The replay suggested it was a dubious call and even the Australian commentators were in agreement that it was a “soft” yellow card.

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LionsLions’ head coach Johan Ackermann has made 10 changes to the run on personnel, 6 in the pack, and four in the backs,  as well as one positional switch to his side to take on the Western Force in Perth this weekend.

The Lions have yet to pick up a win on tour and are desperate to break their duck, but major injuries have beset the touring squad in the past week making a win on Saturday against a high flying Force side seem unlikely.

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Lionel MapoeCourtnall SkosanDerick MinnieLionsThe Lions medical staff have released an injury update, following the Vodacom Super Rugby outfit’s 41-13 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday.

Unfortunately utility backs Lionel Mapoe (MCL), Courtnall Skosan (Hamstring) and forward Derick Minnie (concussion) have returned to South Africa this morning. They will undergo further scans and tests upon their arrival.

 

Coenie van Wyk and Alwyn Hollenbach departs for Perth on Monday evening in order to provide cover.

The team is still extremely positive and will be hungry to get their first win while on tour, against the Force on Saturday.

Vodacom CupThe two most successful teams in Vodacom Cup history, GWK Griquas and the Golden Lions, will contest the 2014 final after both won their semi-finals away from home this weekend.

In both matches, the team that scored more tries were knocked out and the points’ difference in the semi-finals in Nelspruit and Pretoria was a single point.

On Friday evening in Nelspruit, the Steval Pumas lost their first match of the season when they went down by 14-15 to four-time champions, GWK Griquas, after a last-minute penalty goal by fullback Gouws Prinsloo.

The visitors to the Mbombela Stadium had the best possible start when flyhalf Francois Brummer put them ahead by 3-0 after only 20 seconds with a well-struck drop-goal.

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Special EditionStormersSharksLionsCheetahsBullsThis is the last article in the 3-part series where we run the rule over team performances so far and take a look at the chances of teams as we enter the final stretch of the regular season.

We conclude with the South African Conference, who are positioned as the bottom performing country overall, with 4 teams in the bottom 6 at present.

SUMMARY: While the Sharks fly the SA flag and have established the 1st major break at the top of the table, now 5 points clear, only the Bulls have any chance of joining Jake White’s team in the knockout stage of the season.

The Lions’ promising start has been tarnished, the Cheetahs record season last year is a distant memory, while the Stormers haven’t been so far down the table since 1996.

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