Less than a fortnight ago he played his final Super 14 match against the Bulls at Loftus the stadium where it all started for 37-year-old Springbok lock Johan Ackermann and on Monday night he was in Green Point, training with Hamiltons ahead of their derby against Villagers at Brookside on Saturday.
Dale Granger reports on IOL.
What a career for the veteran lock, as he prepares to run out with former provincial stars Jaco Gouws, Egon Seconds and Rayno van As in a Hammies side favoured to dominate their Cape club rivals.
As part of an arrangement with the Sharks, Ackermann (13 Test caps) played the first four games of this year’s Super 14 before relocating to Cape Town for a career with petroleum company Kepu, the sponsors of Hamiltons.
After a long career, Ackermann reflected last on Monday night on what it would be like returning to club rugby, where it all started for him in the Police club in Pretoria.
“It’s a good thing I played club rugby before and I remember it as if it was yesterday. Rugby is a game you have to respect and whoever I am up against, be it a club player or an All Black, I will play with passion and they have my respect.
“My focus will be on my team and the game, not the reality that there are not 40 000 people in the stands,” he said.
After a career that took him from the Boks and the Bulls to the Lions, Northampton in England, Calivisano in Italy, then back to South Africa with Griquas and the Sharks where his performance, at age 35, saw him back in the Bok fold there are few veterans in South Africa as qualified as Ackermann to explain why the Sharks are second on the Super 14 log, while every other South African team is struggling.
“The Sharks set-up is amazing and so is the spirit. There are no egos and everyone plays for one another. And Dick Muir is a remarkable coach who knows the mix that you must have between enjoyment and discipline, especially on tour.
“He keeps authority as a coach, but still manages to have a friendly relationship with senior players like AJ Venter and John Smit. He can have a beer with those guys, but they still respect him and will listen to him as players.
“Dick took over in 2005 when we were bottom of the log and just over two years later he took us to the Super 14 final. He created the environment to perform and scouted players like Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen and Bismarck du Plessis.
“The whole mix is excellent, with a management who plan well, players who play for one another, and an excellent vibe in the stadium.
Apart from the All Blacks, the Sharks are the only side I know of who allow music in the dressing room and play ipods to relax.
“I think the Stormers, if they do not build momentum now after the Reds, will be a force next season,” Ackermann said of the Cape side, striving to record their second win, against the Chiefs on Friday.
“You could feel that they were much better when we played them this year (the Sharks won 12-10 in Durban) than last season and I can see them getting better every year. Rassie (Erasmus) is a very good, structured coach but it’s going to take time and patience for the team to get used to his system. Then results will come.
“Their past problem seemed to be two camps in a team that was split. That can sometimes be the case when you have seven or eight big names in a side.
At Griquas I played under (former Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe) and the only two senior players were myself and Braam (van Straaten). But we both supported the coach,” he said.
Indeed. Last season there was conflict in the Stormers camp culminating in a dressing room row between Luke Watson and Van der Merwe.
Now Jean de Villiers is the new Stormers captain and, if anything, none are breaking ranks with team protocol.
There is no indication that the Stormers might rely on Ackermann’s services. But, work permitting, the big guy hopes to coach kids.Tweet