Johan Ackermann chats to Sport24

    2014-02-28 09:16
    Lions coach Johan Ackermann (Gallo Images)
    Cape Town - Former Springbok lock and current Lions coach Johan Ackermann tackles YOUR questions.

    He discusses the mercurial Marnitz Boshoff, whether he harbours Bok coaching ambitions and facing the Bulls this Saturday…

    Mark Denzil Barnard asked: Have the fresh players who have come in with a new pride for the Lions jersey made the most difference?

    Johan Ackermann: In both training and match situations, the players have displayed a willingness to work hard for one another and have truly bought into our team culture. There is a strong sense of one-for-all and all-for-one in this side. As a coach, one’s job is made that much easier when the players require no added motivation to succeed. While I’m really pleased with the way in which the players have adapted to Super Rugby, it’s crucial that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, because this competition is a marathon not a sprint.

    Herman Mostert asked: Describe your coaching style and the environment you have cultivated.

    Johan Ackermann: I would like to think that I create an easy-going, fun atmosphere and a freedom which allows my coaching staff and players an opportunity speak freely whether sharing advice or offering opinion. As a coach, I strongly believe in making collective decisions which best benefit the team. And the element of respect is big in my book. Respect for the team environment, one’s teammates and the Lions jersey.

    Raymond Silinga asked: You have enjoyed a dream start to your Super Rugby coaching career. Do you harbour ambitions of one day coaching the Springboks?

    Johan Ackermann: (Chuckle) I suppose every rugby coach in South Africa would like to coach the Springboks. While it would be dishonest to deny that ambition, I’m in my first year of coaching Super Rugby and can honestly say that my total focus is on the Lions. Should my path one day lead to coaching the Boks then great, but if not, I would hope to have made an impact on the lives and careers of the players whom I would have had the privilege of mentoring at the Lions.

    Callie Buitendag asked: Is it a slight concern that your side have only scored one try after two matches owing to the importance of bonus points in Super Rugby?

    Johan Ackermann: In spite of that statistic, I wouldn’t like to think that we’re only a kicking team. Last year, we perhaps over-emphasised an exciting running game and so far this season, I believe we have moved closer to the ideal balance between attack and defence. I would much rather take a win than score five tries and lose the game, for example. At the back of my mind, I know that bonus points are important, but I’m not overly concerned at the moment as the reality of Super Rugby is that one has to possess a flexible game plan. If we create sufficient attacking opportunities in a match, I believe my players are more than capable of scoring the four-try bonus point.

    Leon Avenant asked: Warren Whiteley has stated that the Lions are more process than results-driven. Outline for us the team’s objectives for the season…

    Johan Ackermann: When we came together as a group during our pre-season camp, we decided that our approach would be one of game-for-game and week-for-week. We came to the conclusion that if we, for instance, set far-reaching or unrealistic targets and then failed to tick them off it would only result in added pressure within the group itself. Our strategy of focusing on the moment rather than looking to the future is working well for us and we will therefore continue with this approach.

    Deon Ozzy Krause asked: Marnitz Boshoff must surely be the first name on your team sheet. Too soon to talk about him as a Bok contender or do you feel he’s the real deal?

    Johan Ackermann: Obviously it would be up to Heyneke Meyer to see whether he would fit into his plans, and his potential selection would also be dependent on the form of the Bok incumbents. While Marnitz is playing with great confidence, fans must realise that his success has been achieved through the hard work he’s put in behind-the-scenes. Every time he lines up a kick, I know that points are sure to follow, and as a coach there’s no greater comfort than boasting a highly confident and consistent No 10 in one’s side. His current success is just reward for all the hard graft he puts in.

    Lloyd Peter Bosman asked: When Elton Jantjies is fit and ready will he get a chance to prove himself? If Marnitz continues to perform at flyhalf, in which position will Elton be played?

    Johan Ackermann: As a coach, I’m in a really good position as we possess two quality flyhalves in Elton and Marnitz. At the moment, our focus is on getting Elton back to full fitness and while he’s looking sharp in training, he has to be managed carefully as he’s only played 40 minutes of rugby in the last four months. When I feel he’s ready to take the speed and intensity of Super Rugby, we will then decide whether to ease him off the bench, adopt a rotation policy at ten or perhaps look at moving Marnitz to fullback to accommodate Elton at flyhalf.

    Liza Lucani asked: You tackle the Bulls this Saturday and go in with the momentum. How will you approach the match mentally as you‘re not necessarily seen as the underdogs?

    Johan Ackermann: On paper, they are still fielding 10 Springboks, are playing at home and have a history of featuring in Super Rugby finals. As such, I don’t believe we go in as favourites. While we’re grateful and blessed with the way the season has started for us, I have warned the players that we have not achieved anything as yet. The last thing we can afford is to go into the game over-confident. We have to be clinical in all areas in order to achieve a positive result at Loftus.


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