Ackermann feeling the heat

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Lions coach Johan Ackermann is feeling the pressure ahead of their Super Rugby quarter-final against  the Crusaders on Saturday.

Ackermann has done incredible things at the Lions franchise since he took over the reins in 2013. First he brought them back into the Super Rugby fold and this season he lead them to second on the overall table.

However, that is not enough for the former Springbok.

“My feeling is that we haven’t won anything yet,” the 46-year-old told Supersport.

“Playoffs can be won by any team on the field and if you lose then people are upset. But if you stand on the outside and you look at the positives and the growth of the team, we have to be positive.”

Given the Lions superlative form in 2016, which has included wins over over the Chiefs in New Zealand and putting thirty points on the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, the expectation of the revitalised Lions faithful is high.

But Ackermann is doing his best to be realistic in the high-pressure situation of the playoffs.

“We need to temper our expectations, they shouldn’t put us on a throne just yet,” he said of the Lions fans.

“I’m obviously happy if the fans are excited, because our only goal back in 2014 was to make our fans proud of the team again and to bring the passion into the jersey again.

“If they are going to compare us in those terms then I’m happy but if they are going to evaluate us on trophies, then we are on dangerous ground, because people are people and on the day things can go wrong.”

Indeed the Lions fans have been put through the proverbial ringer, with bottom of the table finishes in 2010 and 2012 ultimately leading to them being axed from the competition in favour of the Kings in 2013.

Now, with their beloved heroes finally in the limelight, fans are expecting the best.

“I understand where people are coming from,” said an understanding Ackermann.

“If you think of the years that we won very little, and the supporters took a lot of shots at the time. I believe it must be nice for them to see the team winning again.”

As a result, the expectations of the fans and players alike weigh on Ackermann’s mind.

“There is such a big expectation at the moment that you can’t fail because if you do, then everyone is disappointed,” he added.

“If you look at how the team has grown – in 2014 we were 12th, last year 8th and now in the playoffs, we won seven games, then nine and now 10.

“Hopefully people will see the growth in the team and be happy with that because the disappointment will be so great if we don’t bring back a trophy, because everyone has us on a pedestal and I’m not mad about that.”