JOHANNESBURG - Outgoing Lions coach Johan Ackermann and stand-in captain Jaco Kriel have given incoming coach Swys de Bruin the big thumbs up.
The 57-year-old De Bruin, who has been Ackermann’s assistant since 2013 and helped develop the team’s much-vaunted attacking style of rugby, will take over the head coach position at the end of the season when Ackermann heads to England to take up a position with Gloucester Rugby.
De Bruin was this week named coach of this year's Currie Cup and next year's Super Rugby teams, with the possibility of staying on for longer than that.
Ackermann and Kriel both said De Bruin was fully deserving of taking charge of the Lions.
“I’m so pleased for Swys,” said Ackermann. “We’ve come a long way together and the good thing is the players know how he works and thinks, and he knows how the players here think. He’s got so much experience.
“We’ve got a unique culture here at the Lions and he’s a big part of that. He knows how to get the best out of the players. He has the (No) 10, 11 and 12 Springboks around him, and with a stable management team and support staff his selection as coach is a great choice.”
Kriel, who is currently leading the team in the absence of the injured Warren Whiteley, said the players were thrilled when told that De Bruin would take charge when Ackermann leaves.
“The players are delighted. They know what they’re getting in him and, like coach Akkies, he has an open-door policy where players are free to discuss things, like plans and ideas, and they enjoy that," Kriel said.
“We’ll all miss coach Akkies, but coach Swys is the right man for the job. He knows the players, what makes them tick, and he knows the culture of the team.”
Before joining the Lions in 2012, De Bruin coached at the Sharks, dealing with the junior teams and their academy, while he also took charge of Griquas for several seasons. He starred at scrumhalf and flyhalf in his playing day and before venturing into coaching he was a teacher.