Johan Ackermann interview ahead of Exeter Chiefs return game

Gloucester Rugby

Johan Ackermann was full of praise for his players, backroom staff and supporters ahead of their home game against Exeter Chiefs this Friday. It’s not all good news though as he delivered the blow they’ve been dealt in the front row.

Robert Rees continues in his ‘Coaches Corner’ column, and LWOR has the full Johan Ackermann interview.

As impressive as Saturday’s win at Exeter was, would it be more impressive to back it up and do it all again on Friday.

It would be good for our campaign to back it up and keep ourselves in a good position going forward. After looking at the game we recognized it won’t be as easy as that. There’s a lot of mistakes made in our own game and there’s a lot of hard work to be done if we want to get a result and we obviously know that we’re going to do it against a side that is ready to bounce back and be quite motivated to set that right. It’ll be good for the bigger picture but we have to overcome that hill first.

Is it as easy as saying same again lads or do you have to try and do something different again?

We’ve played each other three times in the space of four weeks but the thing is you have to tweak a little bit, it’s a short turnaround you can’t change everything, but there is stuff we can improve on. There is definitely one or two things we’d look to do differently and it’s going to be a big challenge for us as Exeter are a proud side and they won’t take the result lightly and therefore they’ll come highly motivated.

The roles are reversed from last week as we had nothing to lose but now they’re saying if we want to stay in the competition we have to get a victory so we have to do even better. It’s not just as easy as saying and doing the same things, we have to do better on the weekend.

Ackermann spoke of his player rotation, “we do it because we have got trust and faith in the players. They’ve got different strengths they must play to and then we have got trust they know the plan and can execute it.

You mentioned injuries, there were a few picked up on the weekend, how are they looking?

Our list is growing, we’ve got a decent side off the field if we’re picking that. At the moment it looks like Jake Polledri will be 50-50 and we’ll give as long time as possible top show his fitness but at the moment we can’t make a decision there.

Henry Trinder is definitely out for this weekend. He’s got a sore knee and we’re still to determine the extent of that. Other than that the other guys have bumps and bruises that we’ll manage throughout the week.

Val Rapava Ruskin is out for a long time, something like three to four months. He tore his calf badly in the warm-up.

Tom Savage is one of those we have to manage through the bumps and bruises. He is one that’s quite sore after the game and that’s why we took him off early, but we’ll see how he develops and luckily we’ve got all our locks healthy.

Ben Vellacott is about two or three weeks away from returning and James Hanson is about six weeks. So with him and Franco Mostert out there are still a few positions where we are being tested. We have to trust that this is the time for our young players to step up and make up and make a difference.

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Where are you at with Franco Mostert as he’s had a long season?

Franco has been rested so he’s available for selection and hopefully he’s got some energy back to get him some game time on the weekend. It’s good to see him on the pitch for a full week of training and he looks settled in and much more comfortable with the lineout calls and we’ll integrate it that he can start calling them as he likes to call the lineouts, but at this moment Grobler and Slater have done a great job for us.

We’re fortunate that we have three guys who can call the lineouts.

How pleasing was it for you to go from a disappointing loss to Exeter the fortnight before then for the players to go out there and correct most of the mistakes in a pretty flawless performance?

This game is a funny old game as it keeps you humble and there’s a lot of people behind the scenes that do a lot of good work. The medical staff, assistant coaches, the chef, the manager. There’s a lot of people that need to get the accolades if the team performs. It’s pleasing that they took lessons out of the previous game and made them better, but as we said afterwards analyzing the match we can’t bluff ourselves. We maybe caught Exeter on a day where they made more mistakes than they’d normally make therefore we can’t take too much hype out of this game.

We’re pleased and we’re always grateful for a victory especially over a side like Exeter but that’s done and dusted and Friday’s going to be a new and massive challenge.

Can you tell us about Danny Cipriani’s impact?

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I said it from the first week. Credit to Danny with his attitude and how he came into the squad. His contributions on and off the field are always positive, always spending time with every player whether it’s a front rower, winger or centre. He’s got time to talk to players about technical stuff.

The young players can learn a lot from him. They get time to sit and be around the backs sessions and you can see that he knows his game and what he wants to achieve but he was also open for change. That’s important for any player as when you move into a new environment there’ll be new values, systems and plays. He was open to change his way of thinking to how we want to play and things we’ve done. There’s a common ground and I like it if we look at a thing and we get to a point where we agree how we’re going to do it.

Danny is that kind of player, he wants to engage. He’s definitely made a difference, you can see that in our plays with composure, but there’s also things he can work on and he’ll be the first one to acknowledge that.

As a club would you hope he has a World Cup chance?

Do I believe he can add value? Definitely. Like we spoke about in November when he wasn’t selected, it’s difficult for an international coach. They build a team culture and team cohesion, you make up your mind on two tens and then there’s a new guy on the scene. You have to decide whether to take three tens or just the two. It’s similar to Ollie Thorley and whether he can play for England. The question is what do you do with the guys they’ve invested in over the last two or three years.

That’s where they have to make that choice in the next six months, who is on form, who is fit and healthy and it’ll be great if we can get Danny there. His first protocol is to keep performing here at Gloucester and the rest will take care of itself.

Give us a picture on how quickly his partnership with Billy Twelvetrees came together and how important that’s been.

Danny knows how to communicate to players around him and get the best out of them. It’s all about discussing things and getting to a point of agreement. Credit to the players around Danny as well that they embraced him and the things he wanted to install. The communications between forwards and backs.

If you look at Billy he benefited a lot, then Mark Atkinson and now Owen Williams. We want to be a team that embraces change and is there for each other. I like it when the player form these combinations.

The Premiership clubs are due to get a massive cash injection later from CVC’s investment. From your position are you going to have more money at your disposal?

As a coach you always want to have more players and look at your equipment and see what you can add to help the team’s performance. I haven’t sat down with Martyn, David or Steve and discuss what the need is for the income. Is the need on the administration side of things or is it on the playing side. We haven’t gone into that yet.

That’s the one thing I enjoy about my job at the moment, I don’t have to get involved in the financial side. I can just worry about team stuff and players. I know that if there is more money if the salary cap stays we can’t do anything as all the clubs are at the top of their salary cap. It’s not like we’re going to get in another four or five players.

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