Newcastle Clash, the Real Test of the New Johan Ackermann Regime

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BATH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Gloucester Rugby's Head Coach Johan Ackermann during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Gloucester Rugby at Recreation Ground on October 29, 2017 in Bath, England. (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Gloucester Rugby face one of their biggest tests yet on Friday evening, as they travel to Newcastle Falcons. It will reveal a lot about the Johan Ackermann regime and whether the South African leader can solve Gloucester’s inconsistency problem.

Three Aviva Wins in a Row

The Johan Ackermann regime has already delivered back-to-back wins, which Gloucester failed to do at all last season. The latest victory over Saracens made it three league wins in a row – nearly half their total of wins in 2016/17.

A fourth win this Friday would set them up in a fantastic position, with home matches against London Irish and Sale Sharks in December.

Add in the Anglo Welsh victory over London Irish and the Cherry and Whites are gunning for three consecutive wins in all English Rugby competitions.

Desire to Beat Near Rivals

Despite their recent mediocrity, Gloucester have normally been able to rouse themselves for the occasional upset. For example, they have beaten Saracens in three of the past four years. They also recorded a bonus point win over finalist Wasps in November 2016.

However what crushed Gloucester’s campaign last season was their inability to beat their near rivals. Losing home and away to the five sides immediately above them meant Glaws were never going to climb the table ladder. Newcastle Falcons were one of those sides.

A 260 mile trip on a Friday night will therefore provide a good desire to make progress from last season. A win at Kingston Park against an aspirational Falcons side would be the kind of win that a top six finish is built on.

Note: Newcastle had briefly topped the table this term but now sit in ninth. Yet a win would put them above Gloucester.

Consequently the Cherry and Whites really cannot afford to lose this match if they are to continue building momentum. This is the cycle in which they found themselves in previous years. As such, the Johan Ackermann regime must change this.

Home Form Back on Track

As Last Word on Rugby covered earlier this season, Gloucester needed to improve their home form. A 100% record at Kingsholm in November is perhaps better than expected, given the opponents faced.

The win over Exeter in round one has been followed up well; defeating Saracens and Northampton, who both sat atop them at the time. Gloucester appear to have the desire, and could replicate others who have achieved their aspirations.

Sides such as Harlequins have shown it is possible to win very few away games but reach the top six on the basis of strong home form.

To get where the Johan Ackermann regime hope to be, a minimum of 44 points from 11 home game victories would go a long way to securing Champions Cup competition. And in the past seasons, the sixth placed side has secured on average 57 points in the Premiership. Gloucester have gotten to within ten points of this target, but unfortunately have not won these crunch games–like this upcoming Falcons clash–to close the gap enough.

Johan Ackermann Regime Showing Signs of Change

Looking back, last minute defeats were the overriding feature of 2016/17 for Gloucester. Already they have claimed two victories with the ‘final plays’ of the match. Now they need to be able to make away victories a more regular occurrence.

Looking forward to Kingston Park this Friday night, this would be the perfect place to start the change in fortunes.

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