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The Lions break record en route to top honours

03 July 2017 - 07:43 By Liam Del Carme
Ackermann challenged his players to maintain their voracious appetite for excellence.
Ackermann challenged his players to maintain their voracious appetite for excellence.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

They may be Super Rugby's Africa conference winners but the Lions' job is far from done, says coach Johan Ackermann.

The Lions confirmed their status as local standard-bearers with a 94-7 demolition of the hapless Sunwolves at Ellis Park on Saturday - but the coach remained firmly grounded.

"It is an achievement that we are proud of but nobody will remember that in a few weeks' time. They only remember the guys who lift the Super Rugby trophy. There are some tough challenges ahead before we can even think about that trophy."

In the build-up Ackermann challenged his players to maintain their voracious appetite for excellence.

They registered the highest points haul by a South African team in Super Rugby, but just missed out on beating the Crusaders' 96-point win against the Waratahs.

They tantalisingly fell short of setting a new benchmark for the biggest margin of victory, held by the Bulls in their epic 92-3 mauling of the Reds.

"We weren't even aware of that [record] until Courtnall [Skosan] told us an interviewer had asked him. We just wanted to be positive and score tries. That is what we stand for.

"One can always argue about the challenge and the opposition you got, but the good thing for us is that there was decent structure and decent rugby played. I believe the intensity was high regardless of what they gave us. The game was fast.

"The rucks were fast and the skill level was high. On two occasions we didn't look after the ball but in general the speed was as high as it can be. Well done to the players for keeping that intensity," he said.

The bench made quite an impact. The Lions sat pretty at 35-0 at the break and scored 59 points in the second half.

Captain Jaco Kriel ran as if charged by a well known battery maker, Ruan Combrinck was running at full tilt, Kwagga Smith ran with verve and vigour and Elton Jantjies masterfully conducted proceedings at flyhalf. Faf de Klerk made an electrifying contribution off the bench, while Lourens Erasmus bashed his way into the clear.

"We saw a massive impact from the bench," noted Kriel. "The intensity just lifted. That just inspires you to play harder, quicker and for your teammates. I'm overwhelmed; the guys really made me proud."

"Everybody will be 100% where they have to be physically," Ackermann said about the two-week break before the Lions take on the Sharks in the last league match.