Super Rugby trophy would be ‘ultimate highlight’ for Lions coach
ELLIS Park is all dressed up and waiting to provide a fitting farewell for Lions coach Johan Ackermann today.
It will hopefully come after his team beat the Crusaders and bag a first Super Rugby trophy for the Johannesburg-based side.
After five years in charge of the Lions, Ackermann will take up his new job as head coach of Glouces- ter in England next week.
“The interest in this game is amazing. It’s so exciting and for atmosphere it’s up there with Test rugby,” he said.
“I won a few Tests in my day, but there was never long-term investment and I was never part of a Bok team that lifted a cup, like a World Cup. Here and there I won a Currie Cup but this, Super Rugby, is so much bigger than that.
“Having spent the time I have here and helped build this team over the years... this is as big as it gets for me. Winning this title would be the ultimate highlight... definitely my biggest rugby moment.”
The Lions have lost just once this year and have produced several players who form the core of the Springbok team.
Lions captain Warren Whiteley leads the Boks, too, but he misses today’s final due to injury.
Stand- in skipper Jaco Kriel said: “I will never be able to fill Warren’s shoes. He’s such an amazing leader and brilliant person.
“The great thing here at the Lions is that the captain is never left on his own. I’ve got all these amazing players around me and that helps tremendously.
“Captaining this team is not my job – it’s the job of every player in the team. We know that if we all stick together, everything will work out, no matter the situation.”
Ackermann and the Lions have done everything they could have to qualify for and earn the right to host, today’s tournament decider, which will be played in front of 62 000 fans – affording them their best chance of seizing the title.
All they have to do is go out and give it their best effort. After kickoff at 4pm, just 80 minutes rests between them and rugby glory.