Ackermann happy with less Super Rugby travel
REACTION: The 2017 Super Rugby fixtures were confirmed earlier in the week and Lions coach Johan Ackermann was grateful for his team's travel schedule, after a nightmare draw in this year's competition.
The Lions travelled halfway around the world in the first three weeks of this year's Super Rugby tournament as they started their campaign with a match against the Sunwolves (26-13 victory) in Japan at the end of February, before they flew to New Zealand where they did battle with the Chiefs (36-32 victory). The following week they played the Highlanders (15-34 defeat), before finally returning to South Africa for a game against the Cheetahs (39-22 victory) in late March.
However, the Lions showed little signs on the playing field of a team that had to endure such a travel schedule as they went all the way to this year's Super Rugby Final where they were beaten 3-20 by the Hurricanes at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington in August.
The Super Rugby format means that the Lions have been given the luck of the draw for next year's Super Rugby tournament as they have a less demanding travel schedule and they will only face the Australian Super Rugby teams as well as their South African cross rivals in the league phase.
The Lions open their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with a clash against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein before they host the Waratahs in Johannesburg. They will then travel to Argentina to take on the Jaguares in Round Three.
The Lions three-week tour of Australia will get underway with a match against the Western Force in Round Ten at the end of April before they play further matches in Australia against the Melbourne Rebels and the Brumbies.
The Lions return from Australia in the middle of May and their first game back from tour is against the Bulls in Johannesburg on May 20.
Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg this week, Ackermann said that he is happy with next year's Super Rugby draw, especially the travel schedule.
"Out of a travelling point [of view], we are much better off.
"We don’t play the Sunwolves in Japan and we don't fly from Japan to New Zealand like we did [this year].
"We go to Australia, it's a shorter flight, it's a direct flight, so just out of the travelling point of view there's much less travelling," explained Ackermann.
Ackermann added that his team need to get the right results in their first few matches of next year's Super Rugby tournament, so that they will be able to tour with confidence.
"One can always argue the fact - do you start with a tour or do you tour later. Both have their pros and cons and next year we tour a bit later, so we must start well here at home," said Ackermann.
By Josh Isaacson