Ackermann's loyalty vs ambition the key
It was an off-hand comment from Lions assistant coach Swys de Bruin during this weekend’s post-match press conference that probably cut to the heart of it all when it comes to Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann deciding whether to accept the job offer at Gloucester and leave his job at Emirates Airline Park.
Ackermann was explaining the rationale behind why it was such a difficult decision, when De Bruin quipped that the tougher job would be “for the guy taking over from you” at the Lions should the coach decide to pursue the offer abroad.
While Ackermann sounded like a man with one foot on the plane during the discussion, it is clear that the loyalty and belief in his current side, and what they have built over the past four years, is the key element that is making him doubt at the moment.
Ackermann has said he will take a decision in the next few weeks, but first wants his side to concentrate on their task in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, and their hopes of winning the competition this year.
The former Springbok lock said there were a lot of emotions around the decision, especially as a number in the group – himself and De Bruin included – received their “second chance” at the Lions and have built up a legacy as a rugby family.
“That is why the whole Gloucester decision is quite tough, driving here today, knowing Franco (Mostert) played his 50th and knowing the road we’ve walked with him,” Ackermann explained.
“It started in 2013 coming out of Varsity Cup, that’s where I saw him. I saw his name on a list, on an email from the Bulls that they are not going to renew his contract, that we’ve got him. Robbie Coetzee, Courtnal (Skosan), all those guys, we all got a second chance here.
“And to walk away from that won’t be easy, that is why it isn’t an easy decision. Like I said earlier in the week, I want to make it as early as possible so that we as management and the team can focus on this campaign and do as well as possible in this campaign.”
Ackermann said the decision would come down to two things, family and where his next challenge would be.
“The question for me is where do I see my next challenge? Do I want to coach 3 or 4 more Super Rugby competitions and believe that will be the best for me as a coach and think that is time, or do I leave the place in a good stead and do I go and test myself in Europe at Heineken or Premiership level and grow as a coach there.
“There is so much more to that though, your children are at school, your wife is happy, your friends are here. Your people, culture, language and everything. It is a rugby decision but it is also an emotional decision.”
Ackermann said it would be better, if he were to leave, to decide now and head to Gloucester while they were struggling.
“It’s better to walk in (when they’re struggling) than when you are taking over Wasps or something like that. But you know time will tell. It is probably the best time to go, if you want to go now because they aren’t doing as well as they want to do.
“ But it is not to say that I will be the one to rectify that. It always stays a risk but time will tell.”
The coach is likely to make a decision soon with De Bruin probably the favourite to take over if Ackermann does leave, although it is known that a number of coaches have already made contact with the Lions to offer their services if Ackermann was to leave.