fast little loans
Calling Johan Ackermann “coach” took a bit of getting used to for Butch James ... just as it will be for Ackermann calling James “cappy”.
There may be nine years difference between the two – Ackermann being 42 and James 33 – but the two former Springboks have come a long way together ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls in Joburg.
While Ackermann is currently interim coach of the Lions, James will captain the team for the first time on Saturday, taking over from JC Janse van Rensburg who, along with several other key players, is being rested for the match.
“It was a bit weird calling him ‘coach’ when he took over,” said James of Ackermann. The two men were teammates for several seasons when both turned out for the Sharks around 2006/07, with both also featuring for the Springboks under the guidance of Jake White.
“We also played together in the Super 14 final against the Bulls in 2007,” added Ackermann.
Having already qualified for a home semi-final next weekend, Ackermann’s team do not have to win against the Bulls, giving the coach the option of resting several of his star players.
In all there are eight changes to the starting line-up that lost to Griquas last weekend, with a further six changes on the bench. Among those who won’t take on a Springbok-laden Bulls side, who have to win to make the last four, are Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Taute, Cobus Grobbelaar and Andries Coetzee while Elton Jantjies, Franco van der Merwe and Lionel Mapoe will be on the bench.
“My gut feel is the Sharks will beat Griquas (on Friday, to finish top of the standings) and I don’t want to risk my key players. If I play them and they get hurt ahead of the semi-final I won’t be happy,” he said.
“I want to start training on Monday knowing I have all my players to pick from, that there are no 50/50 calls on players ... and, anyway, some of the guys need a rest,” said Ackermann.
He added he was able to rest his key men in the final round-robin game only because the hard work had been done earlier in the competition.
“Securing a home semi-final early on helped us and that’s what you get when you play consistently well throughout the season. We’ve earned the luxury to rest a few guys.”
James said he was honoured to be captaining the Lions, and joining an illustrious list of men who’d done the job in the past.
“The last time I captained a team was at U-13 level ... but ever since I joined the Lions I’ve viewed myself as a captain, I’m honoured to be doing it officially. At least now I’ll be allowed to talk to the referee,” he quipped.
The Lions can finish no worse than second in the standings, but the Bulls have to win to play in the semi-finals next weekend.
But, despite Bulls boss Pine Pienaar picking all his returning Springboks for the game, Ackermann is confident his players will match the men from Pretoria. “I believe in every one of the guys I’ve picked and I know they can beat anyone in the competition.
“It’s going to be a tough game, regardless of who I’ve selected and we’re going out there to win this one. If the Bulls are good enough to beat us on the day, then good for them. Coca-Cola Park, though, hasn’t been good to teams who’ve changed their sides, by picking their Boks, and coming here,” added Ackermann, in reference to Western Province and the Sharks selecting their Springbok players at the same time last season and losing to the Lions in Joburg.
Lions: Ruan Combrinck, Deon Helberg, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volminck, Butch James (capt), Ross Cronjé, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Paul Willemse, Michael Rhodes, Pat Cilliers, Callie Visagie, CJ van der Linde. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Jacobie Adriaanse, Franco van der Merwe, Warren Whiteley, Whestley Moolman, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe – The Star