Lions spirit to shine through in final

Lions boss Johan Ackermann says a Super Rugby grand final win will cap an extraordinary ascent from relegation to the championship.

The Johannesburg-based team will face the Hurricanes in Wellington barely four years after the South African Rugby Union voted to demote the club from Super Rugby.

They won back their top flight position a year later.

A crushing 42-30 semi-final win over the Highlanders in South Africa propelled the second-seeded side to the grand final, where they are considered underdogs.

But Ackermann, a former Springboks lock, told reporters on Thursday the side most capable of handling pressure would leave the field victorious.

“We always hoped on progressing and in 2014, when we got our admission back to Super Rugby, we said we always wanted to improve as a team,” Ackermann said.

“We just take it game by game and in the 80 minutes there’s a certain level we want to play at, and if that gives us the result then great.”

Ackermann has made only one alteration to his grand final side, reinstating No.8 and captain Warren Whiteley after the Springbok recovered from a calf complaint.

The remainder of the side remains unchanged from their Johannesburg semi-final victory, with first-five Elton Jantjies set to orchestrate the Lions’ attack.

Halfback Faf De Klerk will line up alongside him in the No.9 jumper.

Ackermann said his men would have to be defensively and offensively perfect to outplay the Wellington-based side.

First-five Beauden Barrett and halfback TJ Perenara were two major threats, while Ardie Savea was in a purple patch of form.

“Defensively they are outstanding but then you look at the tries they score out of nothing, so when they get that opportunity they’ve got finishers,” Ackermann said.

“They almost wait, and then pounce.

“We have to be very calm and collected.”

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