Ackermann ranks with Super coaches

Benedict Chanakira

Scott Robertson is being touted as a future All Blacks coach after leading the Crusaders to the Super Rugby title at his first attempt. There was a similar push for Johan Ackermann to get the Springbok job after he converted the punching-bag Lions into heavyweight contenders.

Where does Ackermann rank among South Africa’s best coaches in Super Rugby history, and how many of them progressed to the national hotseat?

Based on win-percentage, Ackermann’s 66% is the best of the coaches in my top five. The Lions were down and out after an exodus of players and sponsors following relegation from Super Rugby. Ackermann pulled the team together and the past four seasons have been sensational, featuring enterprising, fast-paced and exciting rugby.

Losing Super Rugby finalists in both of the past two seasons, the Lions scored 173 tries combined. During Ackermann’s term, the Lions have not only produced 14 new Springboks but have become the core of the national team.

Gloucester’s new coach, Ackermann leaves a legacy that restored the Lions’ pride – I’ve ranked him third.

Former Springbok coach Jake White won 65% of his Super Rugby matches during two stints, with the Brumbies and Sharks.

White transformed a hapless Brumbies side into a championship outfit in two seasons and brought structure to the Australian side, losing narrowly to the Chiefs in the classic 2013 final before moving on to the Sharks.

He again worked his magic in Durban, turning the 8-8 Sharks into semi-finalists in 2014.

One of the premier coaches to come out of South Africa, White is number four on my list, slightly ahead of current Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee who won 63% of his matches as Stormers head coach.

Coetzee started superbly as he built on success in the Currie Cup to take the Stormers from ninth in 2009 to losing finalists the following year.

The Stormers managed two semi-final appearances in a row before a run of three disappointing Super Rugby campaigns. When you consider the quality of Stormers players at his disposal, Coetzee’s results came up short.

Second place is reserved for Frans Ludeke. The former Bulls coach led the side to two Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010, as well as two playoff appearances in his eight-year stint in Pretoria. Winning 61% of his matches, Ludeke made an underwhelming start after inheriting the Super Rugby champions in 2008.

The return of Victor Matfield from Toulon in 2009 coincided with the Bulls’ second title and the influence of the lock forward was evident in the performance of the Bulls and Springboks.

But it was Ludeke’s predecessor who had laid the foundations to South African rugby’s greatest dynasty – Heyneke Meyer. Meyer ranks number one on the list, despite a paltry 41% win percentage.

His first two Super Rugby stints were a disaster as he won one of 22 matches in the 2000 and 2002 seasons combined. But he recovered to establish a Bulls juggernaut that won three out of four titles between 2007 and 2010, and went on to coach South Africa to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.

Benedict is a sports psychology student, a rugby coach and a freelance rugby writer. Follow him on Twitter: @bchanakira2

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- Benedict Chanakira