Ackermann expect 'fight' over Super Rugby cull

Sun, 14 May 2017 15:01

REACTION: Lions coach John Ackermann expect a 'fight' from any team set to be axed from Super Rugby.

Speaking after his team's historic unbeaten Australian tour, which saw them record a record eighth consecutive win, Ackermann suggested that not even the Lions are safe from the big cull.

However, he was hesitant to get into the debate over the merits of the SANZAAR decision to axe three teams from the 2018 Super Rugby competition.

"We hope we are safe," he said, when asked about the axing of three teams.

"There has been a report that we are not even safe.

"However, it is not a debate we want get into.

"There are a lot of speculation about who the two [South African] teams will be.

"I doubt if they will just fall over, everybody is going to fight over who it will be."

In Australia both The Western Force and Melbourne Rebels - the two franchises earmarked to be culled - have already said they will take legal action should the axe fall on them.

The Cheetahs, one of the teams short-listed for the cull in South Africa, have also taken legal advice.

However, they have, according to reports, a Plan B - to join the Pro12 in Europe.

With the South Africa Rugby Union having set certain criteria by which the six current franchises will be judged, Ackermann said it will remain a boardroom decision and they won't get involved in the debate on the merits of teams.

"Somebody has to go, because there was a decision that it will return to 15 [teams].

"In South Africa that decision, about who will be axed, has to be made.

"Will those teams just accept it? I don't know."

He was also unwilling to speak about the state of Australian rugby - despite the Aussies having managed no wins against their New Zealand rivals this season, just three wins in 14 encounter with South African teams and one from two against the Jaguares.

That is just four wins in 33 encounters with foreign opposition.

"It is difficult to pass judgement on Australian teams," Ackermann said, adding: "I am cautious about issues like that.

"The Brumbies have seven bonus points [six for losing by seven points or less]. That means they have been close in a number of their games.

"The Waratahs were close in a number of their games.

"[Wallaby coach] Michael Cheika made the comment that if they put the best team out there they will be competitive.

"I still believe there is a lot of quality players in Australia.

"I don't believe one must read too much into the Super Rugby results.

"As Super Rugby franchises there are always challenges, the same for South Africa.

"[The questions is:] Is it viable to have five or six teams? I don't know, I don't want to get into that debate.

"Somebody is going to get hurt if you take away the teams.

"As coaches we want the opportunity to coach, so the more teams the more opportunities.

"For me to comment on Australian rugby is dangerous ground.

"I don't know what club system they have, what school system they have and what feeder systems they have.

"However, if you take Super Rugby at look at positions you see a lot of quality players [to ensure] you can select a very competitive national side."

Lions captain Warren Whiteley said he had 'empathy' for the teams about to be axed.

"It is difficult, we have been in the same situation," he said of the Lions' axing in 2013.

"We definitely have a lot of empathy. We know someone is going to miss out and that is never nice, as we have been in that situation.

"As players we have to focus on our performances. We can only control our performances and we focus on that - that is really important to us."

@rugby365com

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