Focus is now on next season

THERE may still be the Currie Cup to get through, but both the Lions and the Cheetahs already have their eyes set on a successful Super Rugby season next year.

The two sides faced each other at Ellis Park on Saturday in what would be their last bit of action in Super Rugby for this season. It was the Lions who out-muscled the Cheetahs in a thrilling battle which ended with the home side bagging an emphatic 60-25 victory - their seventh win of the season which became their best win record in one season in the competition.

For the Cheetahs, this has been a season they would rather forget. The Free State side not only finished rock-bottom of the SA conference, but were fortunate that the Aussie side, the Melbourne Rebels, managed to do worse than them to claim the overall wooden spoon.

Despite the woeful season, which included only four wins out of 16 matches, the Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske remains upbeat of better luck next season.

But this was not before the coach conceded: "We were our own worst enemies. It's been a frustrating season. If you want to be in the play-offs of this competition you have to win your 50-50 games and you have to be able to win your home games."

The Cheetahs are also set to lose several of their players, including captain Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Goosen, Hennie Daniller and Philip van der Walt. While the player exodus is likely to cause some disruption, particularly in terms of experienced players, the coach remains hopeful that his remaining charges will improve on this year's performance.

"Obviously, it's not ideal to lose three out of four experienced players. We will lack in the experience department next year, but we will build on that and have a good season next year," said Drotske.

Similar sentiments were shared by Lions coach Johan Ackermann.

"We've got the core of the group signed up and ready for next year. Hopefully we can build on what we've achieved this season," the Lions mentor said.

Ackermann was all smiles after Saturday's emphatic victory, and he was more pleased with the Lions' overall season - their best in their Super Rugby history. The coach stressed hard work as being key in their relatively successful season.

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