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The new Lion King unveiled

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:17
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These are not the circumstances under which you want to get this job
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Former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann has been entrusted with the unenviable task of taking over as head coach of the Lions.

This website can reveal that the forwards coach has been appointed as caretaker head coach in the place of suspended New Zealander John Mitchell.

As revealed by this website last week Friday, the Golden Lions Rugby Union have suspended Mitchell - following revelations that a group of players have presented a 'list of grievances' to GLRU President Kevin de Klerk over the manner in which Mitchell treated players.

De Klerk initially said that Ackermann and Kiwi Carlos Spencer, the backline mentor, would share the coaching duties.

However, on Monday the Lions boss told the players that Ackermann would be the new 'Lion King' and Spencer would remain in his role as backline coach.

Ackermann, in an exclusive interview with this website, spoke of his "nervous anticipation" ahead of a new role that will see most of the key Lions decisions taken by him.

He admitted it would be a "huge challenge" to the entire squad - on and off the field - to remain focused as a group during these trying times.

"Obviously it is not just the change of coach, which is bad, since these are not the circumstances under which you want [to get] this job or get into this position," Ackermann told this website.

He added that the uncertainty surrounding the Lions' future - whether they would be playing Super Rugby in 2013 - was also contributing to the challenge of keeping the players focused.

"However, the players showed they can put these issues aside," the new head coach said, adding: "Hopefully by the weekend all 22 players will be fully focused on the game [against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday].

"The [GLRU] President [Kevin de Klerk] spoke to the guys and we gave them a long weekend, so today [Monday] was the first day that they were at a training session without John [Mitchell].

"There was uncertainty about what to expect, so that was a big adjustment.

"Hopefully by Thursday they are more settled and used to the changes [in the coaching set-up]. Hopefully we will be competitive this weekend and put up a good game [against the Stormers]."

By Jan de Koning

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