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Jacques van der Westhuyzen
FORWARDS coach Johan Ackermann says the spirit in the Lions team is good considering union president Kevin de Klerk has launched an investigation into John Mitchell.
The New Zealand coach was suspended on Friday after several players complained to De Klerk about the way they have been treated by Mitchell, who became head coach of the team midway through 2010.
In his absence, Ackermann will take charge of the team, while Carlos Spencer will continue in his role as backs coach.
It is understood the senior Lions players, in particular, didn’t like the way Mitchell dealt with them.
De Klerk, who said at the weekend the complaints are of a serious nature, addressed the players and the rest of the management team yesterday.
“There was a bit of uncertainty in the group this morning and it seemed as if the players were more quiet than normal,” said Ackermann last night. “But considering what’s happened in the last week the spirit is good, and I’m sure things will improve in the coming days.”
Ackermann added the return to the team of Springbok squad members Elton Jantjies and Franco van der Merwe had further lifted the mood in the camp.
“It’s great that they were able to spend the last three weeks with the Boks and I know they would have learned a lot.
“It’s great to have them back and I’m sure they’ll be up for some big rugby this weekend.”
The Lions travel to Cape Town on Saturday for a date with the Stormers and that will be followed by matches against the Rebels and Bulls.
It’s three games the Lions will desperately want to win, especially considering they have won only twice during this campaign.
“It’s not going to be easy, they’re three very good sides and they’ve all got something to play for,” said Ackermann.
“But we want to finish on a high and start building for the Currie Cup. We want to win again, for the union and for the players. They need to get their self-confidence back.”
Ackermann said the same group which did duty against the Sharks before the three-week break would be in action in Cape Town.
Tighthead prop Pat Cilliers, however, won’t play this weekend as he’s nursing an injury, while CJ van der Linde is in a race against time to be fit for the trip.