Hurricanes have Lions wary ahead of semifinal

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    25 Jul 2017     Getty Images

The Lions lost only twice last year, both times to the Hurricanes and the second time in the final at Wellington. But the Lions, who haven't faced a New Zealand team all season are unbeaten in eight games so far at home, although they were pushed close by the Sharks on Saturday.

Coach Johan Ackermann is aware of the threat the defending champions pose and said in the wake of the quarterfinal shake-up, ""We will have to go and look at the space that they give you.

"One thing is for certain, they're going to be in your face the whole time. The Sharks were like that as well, so perhaps we had a bit of a rehearsal.

"Perhaps we need to look to kick a bit more tactically and not just to run the ball, but it is a year later, and the teams have changed in terms of personnel. And hopefully we can handle the pressure a bit better than we did last year.

"But now that we know who we play, we will analyse them properly and prepare accordingly," he said.

Defence coach JP Ferreira told The Star the Lions' defensive play this year was the result of hard work, and increased international exposure through the Springboks and South Africa A this year.

"We've come a long way together as a team, four, five years now, real quality time. As defence coach I've put a lot of emphasis on one-on-one tackling, but it's also down to attitude, which is playing for the guy next to you.

"Also we shouldn't ignore the fact that we've had a lot of players in Test-like situations in the last year, and that's contributed to the improvement in defence, too.

"Playing in those pressure situations where one mistake can cost the team seven points has been significant and a big contributing factor," he said.

"They'll be confident…they beat us here last season and in the final in Wellington, so they'll believe they know how to beat us.

"But what greater motivation for us than to play against the defending champions and the only New Zealand team we didn't manage to beat in 2016?

"The Hurricanes caused us a lot of pain last year…now we've got a chance to fix that," Ferreira said.

Ackermann, whose stint with the side ends this year as he is taking up a coaching position with Gloucester in England, said accuracy and decision-making would be vital for the Lions.

"There were enough opportunities for us to run, where we kicked [against the Sharks]. If we run we must run, and if we kick, we must kick much better. I still feel our plan in is the right way, we must just finish off the small little opportunities.

"When we got behind the defensive line, we were more accurate in the past than against the Sharks. We would have scored the tries and created that gap between us and the other team, but we didn't.

"That is where we must improve. We tried fancy passes so there is still a lot of place for ambition, but it is just that accuracy that we needed.

"It really is only about decision-making and accuracy…there's nothing wrong with our plan. I don't think we will change anything much at this latter stage," he said.