Former Lions lock and current forwards coach Johan Ackermann is particularly satisfied with the impact his versatile second row players are having on the Currie Cup at the moment.
As a player Ackermann was renowned as a tough customer and won plenty of admiration for the way he kept up his imposing physicality late in his career, so it is no wonder that watching Wikus van Heerden and Franco van der Merwe step up puts a twinkle in his eye.
He told this website: "I think the two guys make a good mix, Wikus is a tighter, more physical lock and Franco has really made a huge improvement there and he is also playing a nice physical game now.
"There are always little things to improve on, like the line-outs, but we will keep working and at this stage they are going well and they are a good combination," added Ackermann.
Both players have experience playing on the side of the scrum, with Van Heerden making a big impact at flank in the Springboks' victorious World Cup campaign four years ago, and Ackermann explained that those skills have made him particularly dangerous as a tight forward.
He commented: That is the big advantage of Wikus, he has lost maybe a step or two so he can't play at as high a standard as he wanted to on the Seven flank, but bringing that experience of playing on the ground from flank to lock is a big bonus.
"He has always been a good tackler and a ball carrier and now he brings that dimension to lock as well, so we have a lock that can carry and steal ball," said Ackermann.
Despite their dominant form at the moment, Ackermann believes that the Lions can still improve in certain areas and he has targeted the set-pieces as a priority for him this week.
"Our line-outs were reasonable in previous games but for some reason we lacked that composure on the weekend [against the Sharks] and we need to fix that for the upcoming games," he said.
Ackermann is expecting a physical game from the Pumas in Witbank on Friday night, despite the fact that they have not won a single game this season, and he reflected on the two teams' differing fortunes ever since the Lions scraped a narrow 31-27 victory over the Pumas in the opening game of the season.
He said: "They pushed us all the way last year and this year. They are always a tough side so we expect a physical and hard game this weekend.
"It is amazing how things have turned out, they have been so close in some tough games and we have managed to close out close games so it shows you what a fine line there is in this competition," added the Lions assistant coach.
Ackermann explained that the Lions are hopeful that their captain Joshua Strauss will recover from his rib cartilage injury in time to be named in the team for the Pumas clash as he has made good progress in his week off.
"We are still giving him a chance, he has improved quite a bit so we will make a final call on him on Wednesday. He recovered quite well in the week that he has just had off and it is only the rib cartilage, so it is something that he maybe can play with if it improves," he said.
By Michael de Vries
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