Ack­er­mann de­par­ture will ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit SA

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - SPORT - @KenBor­land

Johan Ack­er­mann de­serves enor­mous credit for the way he has trans­formed the Lions team over the last five years but he also de­serves the pub­lic’s sup­port for the tough de­ci­sion he has made to fur­ther his ca­reer over­seas with Glouces­ter.

Coaches al­ways have a shelf-life with a team and guys like Sir Alex Ferguson or Ian McIn­tosh stay­ing for many years at one club are the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule. Ack­er­mann has been the provider of so much to the Lions – re­build­ing their cul­ture af­ter their morale was shat­tered dur­ing the John Mitchell years; up-skilling them such that they now lead the way in South Africa when it comes to the most pro­gres­sive brand of rugby; help­ing to build Spring­boks who will surely do the coun­try proud if trusted by Al­lis­ter Coet­zee in fu­ture; and giv­ing them steel, not only up front among their highly im­pres­sive pack but also in the way they are now able to win the tight games, as they did against the Sharks last week­end.

So who can be­grudge Ack­ers the chance to ad­vance his own ca­reer a bit?

There is no doubt the 46-yearold would never be wrench­ing him­self away from his Lions fam­ily and the El­lis Park sup­port­ers – the way he broke down while mak­ing the an­nounce­ment of his de­par­ture makes this clear – un­less he be­lieved a move was es­sen­tial to fur­ther his own highly-promis­ing coach­ing ca­reer.

Ack­er­mann has rightly been spo­ken of as a fu­ture Spring­bok coach, but there is no top-level in­ter­na­tional coach at the mo­ment who has been em­ployed in just one coun­try. Steve Hansen coached Wales be­fore join­ing the All Blacks; Ed­die Jones was in­volved with the Aus­tralian, Ja­panese and South African sides be­fore re­ju­ve­nat­ing

Ken Bor­land

Eng­land; Michael Cheika coached Le­in­ster and Stade Fran­cais be­fore get­ting the Wal­laby job; Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi who coached in France be­fore tak­ing over Ire­land and Scot­land coach Vern Cot­ter has the same story.

As bril­liant as Ack­er­mann has been, he has no real ex­pe­ri­ence out­side of coach­ing the Lions to a Su­per Rugby fi­nal and one Cur­rie Cup crown. It can only be good for South African rugby that one of its most promis­ing coaches spreads his wings and en­joys new hori­zons.

There also should be no panic at El­lis Park with the de­par­ture of their much-loved coach. As far as a re­place­ment goes – his suc­ces­sor will take charge for the Cur­rie Cup later this year – there is no need for the Lions to look fur­ther than what they al­ready have.

The fact that the Lions have some­one like the highly-rated Swys de Bruin – who has done well as a head coach be­fore with Gri­quas and will un­doubt­edly build on the legacy of the last five years, pro­vid­ing great con­ti­nu­ity – means pres­i­dent Kevin de Klerk and CEO Ru­dolf Straeuli, who have both also played key roles in the Lions’ resur­gence, can sleep easy when it comes to Ack­er­mann’s suc­ces­sor.

Their struc­tures are clearly in good nick – part of the won­der­ful legacy Ack­er­mann has left – with both their U19 and U21 teams win­ning their re­spec­tive provin­cial cham­pi­onships last year, so if some­one has to move up from that level it should not be so high an el­e­va­tion as to cause a ricked neck.

In fact, Straeuli used the terms “con­ti­nu­ity” and “sta­bil­ity” sev­eral times while re­spond­ing to ques­tions about the road for­ward for the Lions, so it is not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect De Bruin, JP Fer­reira (de­fence) and Ivan van Rooyen (con­di­tion­ing) will con­tinue in their roles and have more re­spon­si­bil­ity.

For those who be­lieve Ack­er­mann has turned his back on the Spring­bok coach­ing job, it seems clear that both Al­lis­ter Coet­zee and Rassie Eras­mus are in his way for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

The SA A job is an in­di­ca­tion that he is some­where on Saru’s radar, and he is still will­ing to coach the sec­ond-stringers when Su­per Rugby breaks for the mid-year in­ter­na­tion­als, but new chal­lenges and ex­pe­ri­ences await over­seas and it is ex­cit­ing to think just how good a coach Ack­er­mann will be when he re­turns to th­ese shores.

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