A lot can be won for SA rugby in quarterfinals

20 July 2017 - 10:11 By Brendan Venter
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Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann. File photo.
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann. File photo.

After 17 rounds, six months and 135 matches we have reached the Super Rugby playoff phase.

With a Springbok coaching hat on, it's healthy having three South African sides competing in the quarterfinals on Saturday, albeit due to a slightly distorted competition structure.

The Lions and Stormers - winners of their respective African conferences - host home quarterfinals this weekend, while the Sharks qualify as a wildcard from the South African group.

For SA rugby's sake it would be great if we could have two sides in the semifinals - one playing at home and the other away.

With the Rugby Championship kicking off next month, beating Australasian teams would further boost the confidence of players involved with the national setup.

It would be a fillip for SA rugby if the Lions could go one better than last year and win the competition.

It's already an achievement for the Lions to have finished as top seed of the overall Super Rugby standings.

The pride of Johannesburg deserve the plaudits because they have been the best team in the competition.

By their own high standards, the Lions would have been disappointed with their performance against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The Lions were rusty after breaking for the June internationals but that was to be expected because it always takes a couple of games after a hiatus from Super Rugby to hit your straps again.

That the Lions weren't on fire but still won comfortably at Kings Park speaks volumes for the winning culture they have created.

This Sharks team are actually a good side in their own right but it would take a brave man to bet against a Lions victory at Ellis Park.

Johan Ackermann's men are not motivated by occasion, and they will stick to the same preparations ahead of the knockout fixture against last weekend's opponents.

In the second quarterfinal with SA interest the Stormers host the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday. You can't help but remember what happened last year at the same juncture of the season - the Chiefs hammered the Stormers 60-21.

The Hamilton side are good but I can't see them coming up with that kind of performance again.

The Stormers are a year older and wiser, and I foresee them playing well.

Having beaten the Chiefs 34-26 in April, they boast the ability to repeat the feat against the New Zealanders on home turf.

However, the Stormers will have to deliver a tactically astute performance. These days the Stormers enjoy playing an expansive brand of rugby and have more strings to their bow, but they must understand that, if the ball gets turned over, the Chiefs are deadly from broken play.

I'm sure the SA teams will do us proud as we approach the final furlong.

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