#SuperRugby Profile: Lions
The Lions seem the best placed SA side to succeed in the competition in light of their 2015 achievements.
CAPE TOWN - Carl Lewis previews the South African franchises ahead of the expanded Super Rugby competition.
Johan Ackermann's stock continues to rise as his Lions squad has continually improved under his guidance.
Not only this, but they have been winning with an eye catching style and swagger.
The Lions will take assurance from their 2015 season, they surprised many in Super Rugby winning eight of their last 11 matches in the competition.
They followed that up with an unbeaten run to emphatically win the Currie Cup, by far the best team in the competition.
Another added plus is the fact that the Johannesburg based side has been the least affected by European departures and their squad has been developing as a collective for almost three years.
They seem the best placed South African franchise to succeed in the competition in light of their 2015 achievements and the time together as team.
There is no doubt that the Lions can at times be irresistible on attack but how will they fair against the New Zealand franchises whose defensive resistance will no doubt be stronger than the ones faced in the Currie Cup.
There is no doubt this Lions team will be an thrilling team to watch, however, they will need to step up their defensive effort for sustained periods throughout the season if they are to taste any sort of success.
They finished eighth on the overall table and second in the South African Conference.
The Lions will back themselves to top their conference and progress to the playoffs, their conference includes the Kings, the Sharks and Japanese Super Rugby rookies the Sunwolves.
• Can the Lions consistently produce the type of rugby that has had many fans gushing?
• The impressive captain Warren Whiteley made the most tackles in the competition last year, his form earned him a Bok call up and like Jantjies he will realise there are more Bok spots up for grabs this season.
• Ackermann has had many of the South African public touting him as potential Bok coach. He will look to further enhance his growing reputation.
• Lions will play the New Zealand conference combined with the physical local derbies; their squad fitness, quality and depth will be put the test.
• Scrumhalf Faf Du Klerk is an exciting prospect, his partnership with Elton Jantjies is definitely some to look out for.
Elton Jantjies has found consistency to match his obvious talent under the guidance of Ackermann. The left footed flyhalf has become a pivotal part of the Lions success over the past few years. Hanrde Pollard's injury has opened a spot in the Springbok squad; Jantjies will know an extension of last seasons form will make him an obvious choice for his national side.
ONE TO WATCH
Jaco Kriel is dynamic ball runner, his pace and power on attack is akin to a back line player. The flanker clearly has white line fever as his six Currie Cup tries will confirm. What makes the 26 year old such an exciting prospect is he is just as impactful on defence as he is with ball in hand. Kriel is all action in contact and his turnovers are as crucial as his try scoring habits. He definitely has what it takes to become a Bok but he will have to translate Currie Cup form onto the Super Rugby stage.
27 February: Sunwolves (a)
5 March: Chiefs (a)
12 March: Highlanders (a)
19 March: Cheetahs (h)
25-27 March: Bye
1 April: Crusaders (h)
9 April: Sharks (a)
16 April: Stormers (h)
23 April: Kings (a)
30 April: Hurricanes (h)
6-7 May: BYE
14 May: Blues (h)
21 May: Jaguars (h)
28 May: Bulls (a)
Break - Test Rugy
2 July: Sharks (h)
8 July: Kings (h)
16 July: Jaguars (a)