Mat­field set to take Lions for­ward

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

WHO will fill Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s big shoes as Lions for­wards coach? That is the burn­ing ques­tion fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ack­er­mann to Glouces­ter this week.

The Lions are ex­pected to an­nounce their new for­wards coach – along with the full coach­ing team – to­day to take charge in the Cur­rie Cup and next year’s Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion. The only per­son guar­an­teed his po­si­tion is new head coach Swys de Bruin.

It is un­der­stood that former Spring­bok and Bulls lock Vic­tor Mat­field is the pre­ferred can­di­date of the Lions and could well be un­veiled as Ack­er­mann’s suc­ces­sor as for­wards coach to­day.

Mat­field is re­garded as a mas­ter line-out tac­ti­cian and has coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind him. He first en­tered the coach­ing ranks in 2012 when, af­ter hang­ing up his boots the first time af­ter the 2011 World Cup, he took charge of the Bulls for­wards and the team’s at­tack­ing game for the 2013 Su­per Rugby sea­son.

He was, how­ever, lured back into ac­tion by then Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, and fea­tured for the Spring­boks in 2014 and 2015, play­ing at the World Cup that year.

It is be­lieved that Mat­field and the Lions are still in ne­go­ti­a­tions around the role the 40-year-old would fill, but for now he’d be in­volved on a con­sul­tancy ba­sis, with the like­li­hood of his po­si­tion be­com­ing per­ma­nent.

Mat­field has al­ways ex­pressed an in­ter­est in go­ing into full-time coach­ing, but with John Mitchell now in­volved with the Bulls there is un­likely to be a po­si­tion for him in Pre­to­ria, but cer­tainly in Jo­han­nes­burg, with Ack­er­mann now in Eng­land.

They would be big shoes to fill. Ack­er­mann helped turn the Lions pack into one of the most for­mi­da­ble units in Su­per Rugby, with Ruan Dreyer, Ju­lian Redel­inghuys, Mal­colm Marx, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel and War­ren White­ley be­com­ing Spring­boks un­der his watch. Kwagga Smith, Ruan Ack­er­mann, An­dries Fer­reira, Jac­ques van Rooyen, and Rob­bie Coet­zee have also been talked about as po­ten­tial na­tional play­ers, while War­wick Teck­len­burg (now re­tired) and Akker van der Merwe (now at the Sharks) also re­ceived praise over the last few sea­sons. Kriel, who has cap­tained the Lions in White­ley’s ab­sence, has only had good things to say about Ack­er­mann. “He is one of the best coaches I have ever worked with,” said Kriel re­cently.

And new head coach De Bruin con­curs: “In my 32 years of coach­ing I haven’t come across a for­wards coach as good as Ack­ers. He is phe­nom­e­nal and just gets the best out of the guys. His mo­ti­va­tional skills are un­be­liev­able. and the guys re­ally play for him.”

The other can­di­dates the Lions would have con­sid­ered for the po­si­tion of for­wards coach in­clude scrum guru Balie Swart and cur­rent Storm­ers for­wards boss Russell Win­ter, a former Lions player and ju­nior coach.

Mean­while, Lions chief ex­ec­u­tive Ru­dolf Straeuli is to­day ex­pected to pro­vide more de­tails around young loose for­ward Ruan Ack­er­mann who it has been ru­moured will fol­low his father to Glouces­ter in Eng­land.

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