South African back row pair are back to fit­ness

Gloucestershire Echo - - DEACS' WEEK -

GLOUCES­TER have been boosted by the re­turn to fit­ness of South African back-row pair Ruan Ack­er­mann and Jaco Kriel.

Ack­er­mann has not played af­ter pick­ing up a bad an­kle in­jury in train­ing in Novem­ber, which re­quired surgery, while Kriel has also been side­lined with an an­kle prob­lem since the fi­nal game of 2018 against Sale.

With James Han­son, Willi Heinz and Tom Mar­shall also hav­ing re­turned in re­cent weeks, Glouces­ter’s squad is now look­ing in a much stronger po­si­tion as they re­turn to Premier­ship ac­tion with a home game against league lead­ers Ex­eter Chiefs on Fri­day.

And it leaves head coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann with some se­ri­ous se­lec­tion headaches.

He said: “The back-row and the locks are very dif­fi­cult (to choose from) with all the back-row al­most fit, apart from Jake (Polledri) who is a week away.

“The locks are all fit so it makes it tough to fit ev­ery­body in.

“The front-row is still quite (dis­rupted) with Val (Ra­pava Ruskin) in­jured, and (Ruan) Dreyer in­jured. Paddy (Mcal­lis­ter) is strug­gling a bit with an in­jury, Alex Seville is strug­gling a lit­tle bit so they are still pretty much se­lect­ing them­selves.

“The hook­ers now are go­ing to be fully fit again. We’ve got Henry Walker, James Han­son and Franco Marais all fully fit. So that’s good news. Se­lec­tion there will be tough, but the front-row in the next cou­ple of weeks will be­come tougher and tougher (to pick from).”

“Ev­ery player wants to play and put on the shirt, that’s what they strive for and I can un­der­stand that.

“But we can only pick 23, and some­times you have to take a gam­ble on how the game will go: what ev­ery player brings, where’s his strength, what to ex­pect from the op­po­si­tion and you ob­vi­ously have to make a choice some­where - and hope you get it right.”

Glouces­ter will have winger Ol­lie Thor­ley avail­able af­ter he spent time train­ing with the Eng­land squad but Henry Purdy is still out with con­cus­sion.

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