Johannesburg – Despite being at a severe disadvantage because of a nightmare travelling schedule, the Emirates Lions know they will need to up their play significantly as they prepare to face the Chiefs in Hamilton in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday morning.
While they opened their campaign with a solid five point win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Lions know they have a mountain to climb if they are to overcome the New Zealand side this weekend.
After losing two days to travel from Japan and crossing half the world in the last fortnight, the Lions now face some very different cold and rainy conditions in Auckland before heading to Hamilton later in the week for their first match against the New Zealanders.
Coach Johan Ackermann is obviously concerned with the way the travel has impacted on his side, and will make a few changes to the starting line-up, but knows it is a tall order to face an impressive Chiefs side at home after all the travel.
“The Chiefs are a very successful team over the past few years. I also believe that if you look at the way they beat the Crusaders in Christchurch it shows how much quality they have in their team. I think we will need to be a lot better than we were over the weekend against the Sunwolves. Our breakdowns will need to be better. Our general play was also rushed as if we were over-eager. We will have to be better this weekend if we want to get the result in our favour,” Ackermann explained.
“As we know the Chiefs will play for 80 minutes. It stays one of their strengths and I know they have players who have no problem running from their own tryline if they catch you off-guard.
“The challenges we have with the long flights will play a part but we can’t use it as an excuse. We have to lift our game and play to our own standards and lift it this weekend for the Chiefs who are a very good team.”
Ackermann was also at pains to get his team over the effects of the travelling, and was understandably not happy the trip had cost them a day’s training.
“We left Japan on Sunday morning at 7am and only arrived in New Zealand on Monday afternoon at 3pm. We will see how the training goes this week and we’ve looked at the video against the Sunwolves.
“At this stage I am considering some changes as I promised the players the whole squad will play. Ideally I don’t like to let a player be on tour for two or three weeks and not get some game time even if it is not off the bench. I know results and combinations are always things that drives the decisions.
“I do forsee there will be one or two changes, and there is also the factor of keeping the consistency as the starting 15 also missed the warm-up game against the Jaguares and it was their first game together on the weekend. There is that balance between that consistency and giving some guys opportunity to play.”
The team is set to be named on Thursday.