It came as a surprise (a pleasant one) when Emirates Lions coach, Johan Ackermann, announced his starting fifteen as early as yesterday for this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks to take place at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
This is because the South African Super Rugby franchises usually announce their troops for weekend matches on Thursdays, unless they play on a Friday, in which case they would do what ‘Ackers’ did yesterday, which is to spill the beans on a Tuesday.
What was impressive for me is that the Lions mentor wasted no time in deciding that he’ll go with the same squad as last weekend to entertain the Durban franchise. Not one change was made to the squad, although it must be said that the decision was probably aided by the relatively long injury list in the team. It is also worth mentioning that the same squad of fifteen men is the one which successfully did the job in Port Elizabeth last weekend, when they thrashed the Southern Kings by 15 points in a 42-19 win, which also must have been a contributing factor.
But it’s still interesting to think that the sought-after mentor chose to let the public know who’ll be running out against the Sharks, an entire four days before match day.
It’s also interesting when you consider that he has a far bigger decision to make of late, that of the Gloucester offer, of course.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Lions mastermind received an offer to coach the English side, and admitted a few weeks ago that he is considering whether to accept it.
Needless to say that the Lions faithful must be extremely worried at this point in time, when considering that the man who led their team to the brink of Super Rugby glory just last year, is considering jumping ship.
The possibility of life without Ackers, under whose guidance the Lions became a force to be reckoned with in world rugby, playing a brand that earned them much praise from both the locals and those abroad, must be almost unthinkable.
In fact, the Lions’ Super Rugby run of last season was so brilliant that former Crusaders coach, Todd Blackadder, even likened their playing style to that of teams from New Zealand! This was after his side had become the latest recipients of a beating at the hands of a rampant Lions team.
May it not be forgotten that Ackers also led the Lions to a perfect run in the Currie Cup in 2015: where they brushed each one of their opponents aside on their way to the title, which they won after 12 consecutive wins!
So it is very much understandable if the fans of the Joburg franchise fear what Ackers is currently thinking, because if he were to accept the offer to occupy the Gloucester hotseat, then it would mean that the Lions lose a really special leader.
And it not only affects Joburg what Ackers decides on, because he is also the head coach of the South Africa ‘A’ team, which means that he also contributes somewhat towards shaping our national senior team.
But perhaps this very fact might be what keeps him in the country and gives many a lover of an exciting brand of rugby a huge sigh of relief.
Come on, Ackers, there’s no Super Rugby in the northern hemisphere!
*Picture taken from: roodepoortrecord.co.za.