Lions coach Johan Ackermann and CEO Rudolf Straeuli during Monday's press conference at Ellis Park Stadium. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Johan Ackermann hopes his move to Gloucester in England will be a stepping stone to his fulfilling his dream of coaching a Test team in future.

An emotional Ackermann confirmed he would leave the Lions at the end of the Super Rugby season to take up a three-year deal to coach Gloucester in England.

“Like players who all dream about playing internationally, coaches, too, dream about doing their job at an international level. Hopefully this move is a stepping stone to achieving that dream,” said Ackermann.

He, however, is not upset at being overlooked by South African rugby bosses for the Springboks job, despite being named coach of the year for three years in a row at the annual South African Rugby Awards; the closest he’s come to coaching “internationally” being as head coach of the SA A team.

”They’ve got men in certain positions, who’re under contract and I accept that. For me it’s a matter of going overseas, trying to do well and saying I’ve succeeded in both the southern and northern hemisphere and someone noticing that.

“The main reason for going to Gloucester is to enhance myself as a coach, to get better and experience new competitions. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to come back and put the experience I’ve gained overseas into South African rugby.”

Ackermann said the fans could rest assured he will give his everything to the Lions in the coming weeks and months before leaving Joburg.

“I’d be disappointed if the fans questioned my integrity and commitment to the Lions ... I am as committed to the team as I’ve always been.

“The players here mean so much more to me than them just being players. I owe it to them, the staff of the Lions and the fans to be 100% committed until I leave ... hopefully I can take the Lions to the last hurdle (in Super Rugby).

“When I started this journey (as head coach in 2013) I knew it was not about trophies, even though that’s how coaches are judged. This was about working with human beings and changing their lives.

“We were at a difficult stage (when the Lions were relegated from Super Rugby in 2013) and we all built a special bond, one that is far bigger than rugby. I trust this is not goodbye.”

The search for a new coach will start now with Ackermann’s assistants Swys de Bruin and JP Ferreira the favourites to get the job. CEO of the Lions Rudolf Straeuli said they wouldn’t rush into a decision.

“We’ll consult all the stake-holders, but we’ve got experienced men right here in our structures, in our current senior management team and in the juniors, so we’ll look within” said Straeuli.

“There’s nice continuity and stability right now but whoever is appointed will definitely have to fit into the define culture we have at the union. There’s enough time for us to find the right person.”

The new coach will be in charge for the Currie Cup competition. Ackermann said: “There’s always someone to fill the shoes. No player or coach is irreplaceable. There’s definitely enough people with the experience right here at the Lions, men who know the culture, but it’s not my call.”

He added: “From next week the focus is solely on Super Rugby again. I don’t want anyone in the team to harp on this again after this week. The fact is the door will open for someone else (to take charge of the team) and they may even take the team to greater heights.”

Independent Media