Make Ackermann Bok coach

Stuff it, says TANK LANNING in his Sport24 column this week, forget this hogwash about him not being ready for the job – Let’s make Lions coach Johan Ackermann the Bok coach.

Tank Lanning

Stuff it, I say. Forget this hogwash about him not being ready for the job. Let’s make Lions coach Johan Ackermann the Bok coach right now. And while, we are at it, let’s also make Lions 8th man and skipper Warren Whiteley the captain of the Bok side.

Those of us that get frustrated with coaches hanging onto players that are past their prime push the old “If he is good enough, he is old enough” line when advocating the selection of young and exciting players, so why should it be any different when it comes to coaches?

Yes, this from an oke who has long underestimated the men from Jozi … Apologies.

But it renders me unprone to making irrational and sudden decisions. Sure the sensational victory in Hamilton last weekend has influenced my thinking, but what has been brewing in Braamfontein has been a long time coming.

And while it may have taken some time for the lightbulb to go on, and perhaps what is on the table as an alternative Bok coaching option has also influenced my thinking, but I am now properly convinced that this is the way forward.

The man has been named South Africa’s coach of the year for the last two years in a row. Do we actually need anything more than that? If so, are we admitting that what we have at home is not good enough?

It started in Super Rugby last year where the Lions won 9 of their 16 games, the same number as the quarter finalist Brumbies. They were in the top 8 of the tournament for try assists, defenders beaten, turnovers, and offloads, and starting to play a brand of rugby that made them not only watchable, but winners as well.

And then in last year’s Currie Cup, the Lions were unbeaten and lead the tournament stats in metres run, passes, carries, tries, clean breaks, defenders beaten, offloads and turnovers. Ball in hand, exciting, unbeatable rugby. Yes the Currie Cup is of an inferior level to Super Rugby, and yes the Lions were the least hurt by national call ups, but Ackermann and his team still had to go out and do the business.

Fans and media alike were frustrated with the losses to Japan and Argentina last year, but a massive factor in the purging of Heyneke Meyer was his refusal to take the Springbok brand of rugby out of the dark ages. Plan A seemed to see Schalk Burger at 10, while Plan B seemed to see Duane Vermeulen at 12 taking a pass from Burger at 10. This while the New Zealanders were launching their second phase off ball recycled by a wing or outside centre way out near the touchline.

Is Allister Coetzee, an affable man with rugby in his blood, but also the man who made the Stormers famous for being the “Wall of Cape Town” such was the Fort Knox like state of their defence, and the man who could get the Bok-laden Stormers to the playoffs but no further, really the man to break Springbok rugby free of the laager laden shackles that currently hold it back?

In an era when all coaches have access to great assistants and the latest player stats and match analytics, it is the coach that brings the human factor to the party who excels. Ackermann, together with Whiteley, have that in spades.

It also speaks to rewarding those that choose to ply their trade here in South Africa. As one who would implement the Kiwi policy of only picking locally based players, this strikes a chord close to my heart.

Lots has been said about the lack of a coaching development pipeline here in SA, and the fact that 4 of the 6 Super Rugby franchises are being coached by new comers to the tournament. But how do we encourage coaches to enter the pipeline if we are not rewarding people that come out of it?

Let’s be brave. Let’s be bold. Let’s appoint that best that SA has to offer right now. He’s earned it.


  1. Agree, coming from a province supporter. Rugby being the evolving game it’s quoted to be, it must be true then that rules, player functions, skill sets and coaching evolves. We have NOT learnt a thing in saru. Made the same mistake way back when we did not employ Meyer, who at that stage was the most successful. When we woke up and gave the man a go, he utilised what he new from back then, unfortunately the game had evolved. We missed out then, in not evolving with the game and it seems we are bound to miss out once more

  2. Tank, PLEEEASE no. Leave Ackers where he is, doing his magic with the Lions. He will undoubtedly be a great Bok coach BUT only if he has full decision making powers which we all know he wont have. So I say rather keep him with the Lions where he is happy and successful and let SARU choose their next hand puppet. Lest not break a great coach with political and other interference. And all of this from a Cheetah supporter!!LOL

    1. That is a bloody good point, while industrially sad. So we need to protect the real coach while SARU hang another out to dry … About sums things up …

  3. Hi Tank

    The first thought that come to mind is “Give that man a bells”, meaning you, for this column with which I agree.

    But then I also agree with the comment from Breganza, that politics and forced transformation could destroy Ackerman’s career.

    However that said I think him and his coaching team might be the best suited to handle this and make it a success, as the Lions has already embraced and implemented the transformation concept.

    So to come back to what you say “stuff it”, I agree lets go for it, it will be a new dawn for springbok rugby.


  4. Hi Tank, great column.

    I really enjoy your Vodacom Think Tank videos, you guys seem to have a lot of insight.

    Pardon my ignorance, but have you ever tried your hand at coaching? I think you could be good at it.

    1. Thanks Bewer. I have indeed. At the UCT Ikeys as a scrum coach. I have had some success with the U20A1 pack, but am taking a break this year to focus on the media side of things, while remaining on exco looking at the supporters club and pub (an area I also quite enjoy :))

  5. Hi Tank
    Thanks for a great column, I too agree with your comments as well as with James and Breganza.
    I do believe that if Ackers went, he would take Swys along and that would really be bad for Lions Rugby.
    Just a small point I wish to make. Could you and the other Cape scribes please take off your blinkers and stop deluding to the fact that the LIONS only won the Currie Cup as they had no Springboks called up and therefore they had a full squad to compete with.
    Please make it clear in your next comment in this regard, that the Lions in fact had at least 9 players missing from their 2015 Super Rugby squad due to players having other commitments such as playing overseas and injuries.
    Jantjies, Tecklenberg, Van der Merwe, De Klerk, Mapoe, Whitely, Vorster and Robbie Coetzee.
    No one has mentioned that the lions are now unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions, warm up games don’t count.

    1. Bit different after the Highlanders loss Cecil, but hear you re injuries and overseas commitments. It remains a fact, though, that they had the fewest Bok call ups. The other sides also had injuries and overseas based players missing. It takes nothing away from what the Lions have achieved, though, and long may that continue

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