Young Ack­er­mann fi­nally gets a test

So many emo­tion are at play as Lions build to­wards a dream fi­nal against Cru­saders at sold-out El­lis Park this week­end


Young Ruan Ack­er­mann has yet to play Test rugby, but he’s sure Satur­day’s Su­per Rugby fi­nal be­tween the Lions and Cru­saders will be very much like a Test match.

The Lions No 8 – who has stood in for reg­u­lar cap­tain War­ren White­ley at the back of the scrum in the last few weeks – said yes­ter­day a sold-out El­lis Park would en­sure an at­mos­phere sim­i­lar to a Spring­boks ver­sus All Blacks Test.

“It is the dream fi­nal isn’t it? It’s go­ing to be so special, a match be­tween a South African team and a New Zealand team in front of a huge crowd at one of the best sta­di­ums in the world. I don’t think any­one must take this match for granted ... it’s us against the best team to have ever fea­tured in the com­pe­ti­tion. We must em­brace the op­por­tu­nity be­cause it’s go­ing to be big,” Ruan, pic­tured, said. Ruan was a school boy when the Lions went through their lean years, es­pe­cially around 2010 and even when his dad, Jo­han, be­came coach and the team were rel­e­gated from the com­pe­ti­tion in 2013.

“We all lived through those mo­ments with my dad, be­ing out of Su­per Rugby and so on, so I have a good idea where the Lions were at that stage,” he said.

“So, to get into back-to-back fi­nals, and this time at home, is a real bless­ing.

“I ac­tu­ally don’t think it has hit home what’s com­ing on Satur­day ... I think it’ll start sink­ing in on Fri­day and then, ob­vi­ously on Satur­day morn­ing.

“Right now we’re just thank­ful we’ve got this chance af­ter los­ing the fi­nal last year.”

Satur­day’s match will be the last for coach Jo­han, who’ll take up a po­si­tion with Glouces­ter in Eng­land af­ter the fi­nal. For Ruan, it’s go­ing to be a tough day.

“All the play­ers are feel­ing it a bit and there will be a lot of emo­tions go­ing through us as we get closer to the game, but for me it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

“I’m not only go­ing to have to say good­bye to my coach, but my dad as well,” Ruan said.

“We all cer­tainly want to make sure we can give him the per­fect send-off, but he’s al­ready said to us that what­ever hap­pens on Satur­day is not the be all and end all.

“He’s told us he is proud of what we have achieved and all he wants is for us to go out there and play, and en­joy it.”

As a young 22-year-old there’s been plenty of pres­sure on Ruan; not only be­cause he is the coach’s son, but be­cause he’s re­cently had to fill in for White­ley.

“Ja, fill­ing the shoes of the cap­tain was al­ways go­ing to be a big chal­lenge. And while play at No 8 is not all that dif­fer­ent there are changes from what I would nor­mally do at No 7, but I can’t say enough about War­ren and how he’s helped me,” Ruan said.

“He’s guided me at train­ing, help­ing with the lit­tle things that you only re­alise when you play in a cer­tain po­si­tion for a long time, so all credit to him.

“War­ren helped so much in my tran­si­tion from one po­si­tion to another.”

Ack­er­mann goes into the game as the lead­ing Lions tack­ler in the com­pe­ti­tion and on Satur­day will be able to mea­sure him­self against ar­guably the best No 8 to have played the game in the last few years, Kieran Read of the Cru­saders.

“Can you be­lieve it ... up against the All Blacks cap­tain. That’s why we re­spect the Cru­saders so much ... they’ve got class play­ers in ev­ery po­si­tion,” Ruan said.

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