Meet your Super Rugby coaches

2016-01-29 08:48
Johan Ackermann (Gallo)

Cape Town - Just how the revised Super Rugby format will go down with the South African rugby public is unclear, but we won't have to wait long to find out.

The new-look tournament gets underway in less than a month, with the Blues and the Highlanders kicking things off in Auckland on Friday, February 26. 

From a South African perspective, the road ahead looks a tough one and if local bookmakers are to be believed there is no standout side from within these borders that looks set to challenge for the title.

Outside of the tournament changes, the majority of the South African franchises have also undergone major alterations with only two sides - the Sharks and Lions - heading into 2016 with the same coaches that did the business in 2015. 

The Kings, obviously, were not a part of the 2015 competition but they also have a new man at the helm. 

Here, we look at the six men tasked with bringing success to their respective franchises:


The Lions under Ackermann ran the Stormers close in the race for the South African conference title and progression to the playoffs in 2015. Ackermann then followed that up with a perfect Currie Cup season, and he remains one of the most highly rated young coaches in the country. Having been tipped as an outsider for the vacant Springbok coaching job, Ackermann is considered one of the few South African coaches who has been able to instill a more enterprising, attacking brand of rugby in his teams. 


The only other survivor from 2015, Gold has a lot to prove this Super Rugby season. The Sharks were woeful in 2015 and the excuse then was that Gold had not formed part of their pre-season preparations as he tied up his loose ends in Japan. This time around, though, Gold has had a full Currie Cup campaign with the side in between Super Rugby seasons and that continuity does at least make the Durban side a settled outfit heading into 2016. Whether or not that will be enough to turn them into a side that can challenge remains doubtful. 


It's been a roller coaster ride in Cape Town this off-season. Eddie Jones came and went in what seemed like a fleeting second, before John Mitchell was considered the overwhelming favourite to be given the gig. In the end it went to Robbie Fleck, who is untested at this level. Few know the set-up at Western Province and the Stormers better than Fleck, but it is still a big call giving the job of the South African conference champions to an inexperienced coach. Fleck has promised a "fearless" brand of rugby at Newlands this season, moving away from the "win at all costs" approach that formed such a big part of the Allister Coetzee era.


Like Fleck at the Stormers, Marais understands the Bulls fabric better than anybody having coached at Under-21, Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup level. Now he steps up a gear as he is the man tasked with continuing the move away from the mechanical brand of '10 man rugby' that brought the franchise so much success between 2007 and 2010. Still, Bulls supporters are an expectant bunch and Marais will know that he needs to deliver results while embedding a new philosophy at Loftus. He started that process in last year's Currie Cup campaign, but Super Rugby will be a different test altogether. 


Another newbie, Smith was given the Super Rugby job just days after he was told he would be guiding the Free State Cheetahs in Currie Cup 2015. He has big shoes to fill after Naka Drotske, who built a legacy at the Cheetahs since 2008. Just 43-years-old, Smith now has the chance to build his own. He is highly-rated, particularly on attack, but there are serious questions over whether or not he has the depth at his disposal to turn the fortunes of the Cheetahs around.


It is a job that few would want, so disruptive have preparations for the Kings' return to Super Rugby been. SARU has saved the day, somewhat, and the Kings now have something resembling a squad, but the task facing Davids is immense. He does come with a vast knowledge of the local game, having been involved in provincial coaching since 2002, but this will surely be Davids' biggest test to date.


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