Lions excited about being back in Super Rugby

Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann says that having gone through a difficult and challenging 2013 season they are looking forward to returning to Super Rugby in 2014.

Ackermann has just signed a new contract extension to coach the Lions in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup for two more years.

“I am honoured to have had an opportunity to commit myself to the Lions for a further two years,” said Ackermann after signing his new contract.

“It is a great privilege to re-sign and I would like to thank the management for the faith that they have shown in me.

“We built up an exciting new team this year, which I have been able to work well with, and I look forward to strengthening our relationship over the upcoming years.”

Ackermann’s coaching skills will be heavily tested in 2014 as it will be the first time that he will have sole control of the team as he took over from ormer coach John Mitchell with three games to go in last year’s Super Rugby tournament.

The Lions regained their Super Rugby status after winning a two-legged promotion-relegation series against the Southern Kings.

“We’re going to have to make a big step-up from the Currie Cup. We had mixed results in that competition (winning just four of their 10 games) and yes, I expected a better overall showing,” Ackermann told the Star.

“It was a difficult year, though. There was no Super Rugby for the guys, the Lions Challenge didn’t work out the way we thought it would and then we had to play Vodacom Cup rugby.

“In between this, the players knew they had a promotion-relegation match (against the Kings) to come and that was always going to take a lot out of the players. In the end, after those two games against the Kings, it took the guys a few weeks to refocus on the Currie Cup.”

In the Currie Cup the Lions finished the regular season in third place but were knocked out in the Semi-finals. Overall the Currie Cup was not that pleasing for Lions fans as they only managed four wins.

Ackermann however feels that the Golden Lions Currie Cup campaign was successful in other areas.

“Firstly, the promotion-relegation matches gave some of the guys who’d never played Super Rugby a taste of what’s to come next year. It was a learning experience for a lot of them, guys like Jacques van Rooyen, Chris van Zyl and a few others, and they would have also learned a lot from the Currie Cup series.

“The stats show we scored the most points and tries in the Currie Cup so we’re doing something right in attack, but there are also areas where we have to work really hard in the off-season to be ready for Super Rugby.

“Our kick-offs will have to be better, we need to learn to play better out of our own half and our defence will have to be improved,” Ackermann said.

“We’re getting to the level at where I want the guys to be. There’s great potential in the squad and in the individuals, but only time will tell whether we’re up to it.”

The Lions have also been given a management boost as former Bok coach and Sharks man Rudolf Straeuli has joined the Union and will deal with contracting of players and professional rugby matters.

Ackermann says that having Straeuli in with the Lions management is a big step in the right direction.

“Rudolf’s got tons of knowledge and experience and I’m sure he’ll be able to make some telling contributions.

“His appointment shows that the union is serious about the future and that’s sometimes al

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