‘All I thought was do not shoot us’

Former Lions forward Ruan Ackermann has opened up on the ‘scary, eye-opening’ moment of being held up at gunpoint on a return visit to South Africa.

On a break from club rugby duty with English side Gloucester, Ackermann had returned to South Africa at the end of January. Along with his brother, Tiaan, and a friend, they were robbed at gunpoint in their car outside a hotel in Pretoria.

‘I felt someone with a gun coming into the car, pointing the gun against my head and telling me to turn off the car,’ Ackermann recounted in an interview with the Telegraph. ‘I turned to my left and my brother had a gun against his head, too; they were demanding some stuff from him. And then my friend behind me, I can’t remember what he was saying, everything sounded like mumbling at the time. He also had a gun against his head. They had three guys and a getaway driver.

‘All that went through my head was: take everything, whatever you want, just do not hurt my friend, do not shoot my brother, do not shoot us. If you want my car, take it. Just don’t take our lives.’

Although the robbers didn’t take the car, they stole all other possessions, including phones, iPads, headphones, clothes, boots, watches, visas and money.

Ackermann said he has continued to have flashbacks to the moment even upon his return to England, while battling to overcome anxiety at times.

‘What needed to be a week off, chilling and catching up with friends and family turned into quite a scary, dramatic, eye-opening moment of realising how quickly your life can be taken from you,’ Ackermann said.

‘Afterwards you are so grateful that you are safe. It is only small life stuff – phones, watches, iPads – that has been taken from you. But after I got back to the UK, having settled back in at Gloucester, back into training and the routine, I started getting flashbacks when I was sleeping about what could have happened, what could I have done, what would have happened if I was shot or they shot my brother. Stuff playing through in your head. I asked my dad if I should speak to someone and he said it was up to me.’

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