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Ackermann quick to claim underdog status

Successful Lions coach Johan Ackermann has been quick to claim the underdog status ahead of his side's first Investec Super Rugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

But Ackermann will face the self-imposed pressure and consequences of his decision to rest his best players and not have them travel to Buenos Aires for the last round-robin game before the quarter-finals.

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The Lions lost that game and allowed the Hurricanes to finish as top qualifier in the competition. That has seen them host all their play-off games at home and has required the Lions to fly to Wellington for the final.

That flies in the face of the fact that no side has been able to travel between New Zealand and South Africa to win the Super Rugby final.

After his side beat the 2015 champions, the Highlanders, 42-30 in Johannesburg on Sunday (NZT), courtesy of 22 points from first five-eighths Elton Jantjies, Ackermann said all the pressure was on the Hurricanes.

"They ended No.1 and they are playing at home, so we can just go out there and enjoy our game," he said.

"It is a big challenge against a tremendous Hurricanes side. The guys love touring and hopefully we will travel well.

"We will give it our best shot – there is nothing more I can ask from the guys," Ackermann said.



With Jantjies winning the man of the match award the stage is set for an outstanding clash between Jantjies and the Hurricanes player who has dominated their campaign, Beauden Barrett.

Barrett played a lead role in the Hurricanes' win over the Chiefs, setting up the first try with a superb kick and chase which resulted in second five-eighths Willis Halaholo scoring, and then scoring the second try himself.

Jantjies said after the win that he didn't have a lot of words to offer after he was awarded the man of the match award.

"We still have another week to go," he said.

"We had to take responsibility, especially after last week [against the Crusaders] when we missed a few one-on-one tackles – we had to fix it this week.

"It was a great performance from the team, but also from the Highlanders as well – they played for the full 80," he said.