Ackermann hopes new sponsor gives Lions stability

Lions Super Rugby coach Johan Ackermann says that he hopes the announcement of his team’s new sponsor will enable them to retain his core group of players.

Johannesburg based Super Rugby franchise the Lions have signed Emirates Airline as their title sponsor for the next five years.

The international aviation company were on Thursday named as the Johannesburg franchise’s new financial partner which would bring an end to two years without a sponsor.

“For two years there was a lack of Super Rugby sponsorship for two years that we have to fill and the money has to be allocated correctly,” Ackermann said.

“The most important part is to look after this group and if we can keep them intact then the spinoffs would be automatically better for the future.”

The Lions missed the 2013 Super Rugby season and have been without a key sponsor for the past two years following a period of deep financial woes.

The agreement will see Emirates not only become the title sponsor of the Lions Super Rugby team but also allows them the naming rights of the team’s iconic home-ground Ellis Park which will now be known as Emirates Airline Park.

“We are obviously very grateful to Emirates and for the other sponsors that got onboard, we know we can’t compete without sponsors behind you and the fact that a major sponsor like them got behind us is awesome,” Ackermann said.

“We will hopefully look more professional and be more professional because we will be able to contend off the field on small little things to prepare the guys better.”

The sponsorship announcement comes weeks after Redefine Properties’ three-year sponsorship of the Golden Lions Rugby Union had come to an end.

The sponsorship is a welcome boost after MTN severed their ties with the union last year which left the Lions in limbo.

Despite a lack of financial backing the Lions have defied their critics by fighting their way back into Super Rugby to record their best record in the competition in their comeback in 2014.

Ackermann and an army of fringe players have been instrumental in the team’s resurrection which saw the team produce Springbok players such as flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, captain Warren Whiteley, and Julian Redelinghuys.

The team’s exciting brand of rugby had also earned them a host of new supporters while they also progressed to this year’s Currie Cup final where they lost to Western Province in Cape Town.

Meanwhile, Ackermann’s coaching ability has reportedly received the attention of a Japanese club that had shown interest in acquiring his services at the end of 2015.

Ackermann, however, said he had given the Lions a verbal agreement that he would stay on until 2016 which needed to be tied up in writing.

“I still feel we must win trophies here and be successful before one can look further and that is why I am so adamant that the group must stay together,” Ackermann said.

“If the group stays together we can all lift our value and then make the decision, do you want to start defending titles or do you move on?”

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