Lions coach Johan Ackermann says the selection of his son, Ruan, was based on the utility value he adds as a forward. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Ackermann Jnr will play off the bench in the Lions’ Super Rugby opener against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday, with the talented 19-year-old set to make his Super Rugby debut after working his way through the Lions’ junior ranks.
‘It’s great for him, he’s very young, but we’re confident in his ability to play 7, 8 and even lock,’ Ackermann Snr commented. ‘So that helped in the decision-making process, and even before we went on tour I told the group that everyone will have an opportunity to play. So next week it could well be an opportunity for Fabian [Booysen], and that’s how it will be for everyone over the duration of a lengthy tour.’
After facing the Sunwolves, the Lions will head to New Zealand to meet the Chiefs and Highlanders before returning home.
Ackermann said it obviously added an interesting dynamic to have his son in the squad, but reiterated that it was certainly not a case of having a conflict of interest.
‘It’s always a difficult situation, and there are definitely pros and cons to it, and people will have their own opinions. But it wasn’t just my decision [to include Ruan], I always involve my coaching staff when it comes to selection, and while I have the final say, it’s not a one-man show. I trust my coaching staff to challenge me on selections, and to have their opinions.
‘For Ruan, it’s just a great opportunity, and he knows he won’t be treated any differently,’ the Lions coach added. ‘Ruan knows exactly what the expectations are of the role he needs to play. Every guy must wear the jersey with honour, and if you don’t, then you open up the door for the next person. It’s a long season, and there are lots of players waiting for an opportunity and who are hungry to get a chance. So, it’s everyone’s responsibility to do enough to keep hold of the jersey by performing up to standard.
‘Although he’s my son, the selection is based purely on a coaching perspective. Personally, I’m obviously proud of the way he’s grown as a player, but obviously the next step – as is the case for all new players – will be to make the step up to Super Rugby level.’
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