JOHANNESBURG – Johan Ackermann has said that walking away from the Lions would be one of the hardest decisions he’d ever have to make.
The Lions head coach has been strongly linked to take over the Gloucester coaching position from the start English Premiership’s next season, with a decision by Ackermann expected in days.
Ackermann would take over from former Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher at the English team, in a move that would see him leave the Lions at the end of the current Super Rugby season and more than a year before his current contract expires, at the end of next year.
“To walk away from this is not easy, it’s not a quick decision,” he said after the Lions had hammered the Reds at Ellis Park on Saturday evening.
“Driving here today (Saturday) I was thinking about when Sous (Franco Mostert) joined us from the Bulls in 2013 and his playing his 50th match for us this weekend. Also the fact Robbie Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan joined from the Bulls ... we all got a second chance here.
“The whole decision is a tough one ... the road I walked here from 2013.”
Ackermann took over the head coaching job in late 2012 and had to play outside Super Rugby in 2013 when the Lions were relegated from the competition, at the expense of the Kings. The returned in 2014 and were arguably the best team in the competition last year, losing to the Hurricanes in the final. Under Ackermann they also won the Currie Cup in 2015 and were runners-up in 2014.
“The question for me is; where do I see my next challenge?” he said.
“Do I want to coach in Super Rugby for another three or four seasons and believe that will be the best for me as a coach or do I leave this place in a good space and I test myself in Europe ... at Heineken and Premiership level, and grow as a coach over there?”
But while it seems Ackermann has already made up his mind after helping to resurrect the Lions over the last five years, he says leaving everything he knows behind wouldn’t be easy.
“My children are here, my wife is happy, it’s my people, my culture, my language, it’s everything you love,” he said. “It’s a rugby decision, but it’s also emotional.”
Regarding his taking over a struggling Gloucester side – the team which plays out of the 16 000-seater Kingsholm Stadium and last won the Premiership in 2007/08 – Ackermann said it was probably the best time to coach there.
“It’s better to walk in and coach there than at (leading) Wasps. It’s the best time to go ... they’re probably not doing as well as they would like, but that’s not to say I will change things. Time will tell,” he added about the team placed ninth with just five wins from 17 games.