Lions boast awesome foursome

    2014-07-15 14:10
    Johannesburg - The Lions are in a fortunate position to have four former Springbok stars at their helm.

    The Lions' official website reports that GLRU president Kevin de Klerk, CEO Rudolf Straeuli, Executive Committee member Ashwin Willemse and head coach Johan Ackermann - all previous Golden Lions/Transvaal and Springbok players - have joined forces to take the union to new heights.

    The most senior member of the trio is De Klerk, who took control of the Transvaal scrum at lock for 14 years from 1971 to 1984. He returned to the GLRU as president in 2009.

    As a player, De Klerk was known for his physicality and no-nonsense approach. He made his Test debut in June 1974 and played his last game for the Springboks in 1981, aged 31. He played 107 matches in a Transvaal jersey and scored 26 tries.

    De Klerk is a passionate rugby man, who has truly led from the front and devoted his life to Golden Lions rugby. Such passion is a rare commodity - but luckily for the Lions, new GLRU CEO Straeuli possesses the same trait.

    Straeuli not only played for the Springboks between 1994 and 1995 but coached the team for 23 Tests from 2002.

    He joined the Golden Lions in 1993 and played for the union until 1996. During that time, he evidently made his Springbok debut but also won the 1995 Rugby World Cup with the Springboks at his home ground Ellis Park.

    Straeuli earned 61 caps for the Golden Lions and captained the side on 14 occasions. He returned to the union in 2013 as the General Manager of Professional Rugby but recently was promoted to the position of CEO - his experience and drive largely unparalleled.

    Both De Klerk and Straeuli have great corporate acumen and will make a strong pairing as they lead the GLRU business into the future.

    Additionally, one of many prominent members within the current GLRU Exco, Willemse also contributes to this wealth of knowledge and experience.

    Willemse played for the Cats from 2003. He made his Springbok debut against Scotland in 2003 and was named the SA Rugby Player of the Year within the same year.

    Willemse was coached by Straeuli and participated in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He was a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok squad. In all he earned 19 caps for South Africa and scored 25 points.

    He returned to the GLRU as an Exco member in 2013.

    Finally, there is head coach Ackermann who, at 1.98m and weighing 115kg during his playing career, impressed with his versatile skills set, robustness and impressive leadership traits at lineout time.

    Ackermann, who was 26 years old when he made his Test debut against Fiji in Pretoria, was known for his feistiness in the tight-loose.

    Ackermann joined the Lions in 1999, where he shone in the Vodacom Cup and played for the Cats in Super Rugby. He stayed at the union for three seasons and played 31 matches.

    Ackermann held two impressive records until recently: He was the oldest player to represent the Springboks (37 years and 34 days) and was also the oldest South African player to participate in Super Rugby (37 years and 272 days). The latter record remains intact, while the former was only recently broken by Victor Matfield as he ran out for the Springboks against Wales on June 21.

    Ackermann re-joined the GLRU in 2010 as an assistant coach to Dick Muir but was promoted to the head coach role in 2012.

    Looking to the future, it is exciting to be able to continue the Ackermann legacy at the GLRU, as the union has recently contracted Ackermann’s eldest son, Ruan.

    Ruan Ackermann, 19, is a member of the current rugby powerhouse Garsfontein’s 1st XV side. He has played provincial rugby from Under-13 level and will no doubt look to walk in the footsteps of his father, on merit, as he runs out for the Golden Lions U19s.

    Expectantly, the pride of all of these great Golden Lions and Springbok men will filter down into all involved at the GLRU. From senior players, staff and supporters to new recruits such as Ruan Ackermann - the union can certainly look forward to a bright future.

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