Following an error-ridden first-half display, Jaco Kriel’s team were staring down the barrel of a possible crushing defeat with the Hurricanes 22-3 in the lead with just minutes remaining in the half. However, they then produced a stunning fightback to clinch a sensational victory.
Asked what his half-time message was, Ackermann said: “I asked the players to really lift their intensity and reset the whole scoreboard. It told them the score was 0-0 when we start the second half, so let’s just go and play 40 minutes of good rugby and whatever happens, we can live with that.
“They were really outstanding in the second half, giving a fighting display and the crowd was magnificent too.”
The 44-29 victory saw Jacques van Rooyan, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies and Kwagga Smith score tries as the Lions became the first South African side since the victorious Bulls in 2009/10 to reach consecutive finals.
Ackermann’s men defeated the Crusaders 42-25 at their Johannesburg fortress in the 2016 quarter-finals, but the departing coach cautioned that will count for nothing next Saturday.
“The Crusaders are a top-quality side. They have a fantastic background and history and they are playing superb rugby at the moment, so looking back at what happened last year won’t help,” said Ackermann.