Ackermann: Lions treasure Currie Cup
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann believes that the Currie Cup is still among the greatest provincial club competitions in the world.
There has been plenty of talk among media circles that perhaps South Africa's oldest premier domestic rugby tournament is losing it's shape and appeal, with very few supporters attending this year's round robin phase of the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The lack of spectators at games has been put down to the fact that the provincial teams' Springboks have not taken any part in the competition as they have been representing the national team in this year's Rugby Championship.
The Currie Cup has been at the heart of South African rugby since the first tournament was played in 1892 and South Africa's most prized provincial tournament has given rise to future Springboks many times along the way.
The Golden Lions won the Currie Cup last season and speaking to reporters in Johannesburg, Ackermann explained that the Lions hold the Currie Cup tournament in high value and they will be going all out to reclaim the trophy which they won last year.
"From a coaching point of view I know that we didn't have a break and mentally and physically there is a lot of pressure on us and we really want to do well in the Currie Cup.
"We've got our backs against the wall, but it would be great if we can win it [Currie Cup] - that's how much we treasure the Currie Cup, so we don't see it as a watered down competition," said Ackermann.
Ackermann added that even though the Currie Cup is short of 30 Springboks, there is still plenty of talent and experience in all the teams to attract interest from across the rugby world.
"If you look at the Bulls side with an RG Snyman [lock] and a Jason Jenkins [lock], you still play against Super Rugby players.
"If you look at the Sharks pack, with a Jean Deysel [flank] and a Keegan Daniel [loose forward] and the whole front row and the locks - we played against them in Super Rugby.
"You take out the 30 Boks and maybe there's guys out of the Currie Cup, but there's still a lot of quality that you have to judge yourself and measure yourself against.
"The Cheetahs side were probably fortunate, they had that continuity from Super Rugby, so you actually play a very good Super Rugby side," explained Ackermann.
Ackermann has managed to build depth in his squad by testing new talent and handing Currie Cup debuts to the likes of lock Jean-Pierre du Preez.
Ackermann further added that the Currie Cup has allowed him the opportunity to give young players an opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage.
"To me it's a great challenge for our players and even more this year for our new faces, to measure themselves, so we see it as a great competition," said Ackermann.
By Josh Isaacson