Ahead of Gloucester’s final 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership season match of the regular season, Johan Ackermann discussed his plans for squad rotation, gave some pleasing injury updates and the latest on some transfer rumours.
Looking ahead to their final game of the season, before heading into the playoff, head coach Johan Ackermann spoke of the excitement at the club. “Any game is important for us but it’s nice to be in a situation where there’s more pressure on Sale than there is on us.
“We want to finish the season well and show we’ve got a side that can compete at this level.”
Johan Ackermann has displayed the culture of “Play to inspire!” this season. This has helped massively in the team’s culture as they head into the first post-season duties in eight years.
The head coach added, “a positive result will help but we’re taking it week by week as we did from round one. Regardless of what happens, you have to reset on Monday and see who you face in the semi’s and take that challenge on.”
Looking at their opposition Ackermann explained, “They’re a quality side, they’ve got quality players all over the park and players who can break the line in attack but defensively they’re one of the best sides over the ball so you’ve to be at your best if you want to build momentum and go through phases.
“We know it’s going to be a big test as they’re a quality side and they will be highly motivated to get into the top six. It’s a great test for us, and it’s great that we see players under pressure and in high intensity and if they can come out with a good outcome then it gives us good issues next week in terms with selection.”
Last chance for players to push for Squad places
Gloucester’s mantra this season is that ‘if you work hard enough, you’ll get the opportunities’ and Ackermann hopes this will keep the performance levels high in their final game. He added, “at the moment we’re looking at rotating players and that’ll open the door for players to push for positions for next week and to get an opportunity on what you can do.
“It is exciting, we’re looking forward to it. With a game still in hand so we’re grateful already for what we have achieved. But we still have our destiny in our own hands. It’ll take a massive effort, not just this weekend but going forward.
“Everyone has contributed, doesn’t matter whether you’re academy or playing games. It’s a credit to the players and management.”
Sale loss at Kingsholm stands out for wrong reasons
In the return fixture Sale crushed Gloucester 30-15, discussing the hurt that was leftover after that loss Ackermann explained, “The last time we played them we weren’t in a good place, we had a few losses on the bounce and struggled in the European competition.
“They were one side who came here and beat us at home and that shows you the challenge that lies ahead. They’ve got a lot to play for to try and get into that top six.
“It’s an exciting challenge to go out and players get a chance to go out and test themselves against some of the best in the competition.”
Gloucester’s bogey team have everything to gain
Sale have been notoriously difficult for the Cherry and Whites in recent years. Ackermann added, “We know it’s not going to be easy because they have more to play for than us but, I want the players who wear the jersey to show what Gloucester stands for.
“Sale have proven in the past that we struggle against them and that shows the quality of team that we’re up against.
“It’s good to have that type of game right before the playoffs to get some decent challenges in certain areas and look at the areas we need to improve but anything up until now means nothing.
“We’re going to stay in our weekly routine and keep it as simple as possible and the players will have a set routine as any other week. We’re not going to make any game bigger than any other week and make sure we can get momentum.”
Gloucester injury round-up
There is some good news for Glaws’ fans as they see the return of a star winger. Ackermann saying, “Ollie Thorley has started to train with the team but time will tell if he’s going to get through the whole week. We might see if we can give him game time on the weekend.”
This week could also see the return of Tom Marshall, and the outgoing Tom Savage. Ackermann saying, “it looks a lot better that we have a few players back. Tom Savage has passed his fitness test so it looks good, but hopefully we can get through this weekend’s game.”
It’s less positive news elsewhere in the boiler house.
“For Ed Slater it’s a race against time, we’re going to give him as much time as possible but at some stage between now and next week we’ll have to make the decision of whether he is fit enough to train.
“The strength of the injury and the pain he can tolerate will be the two main factors. They’re [Medical team] putting a lot of work into it at the momentum and it’s a bit early as there’s a whole week to go, but we’ll have to make the call early next week to see if he’s ready to get over the line.”
He added, “Willi Heinz is ready to go but Freddie Clarke is unfortunately still struggling with his neck so he’s in a race against time for even this weekend. If he doesn’t make it then we’ll reassess him next week.”
Ackermann proud of award winners
Danny Cipriani and Ollie Thorley both walked away with honours at the RPA awards night. Ackermann explained, “Like any award for the team it’s great for the players.
“I know the work they’ve put in and I’ve seen Ollie Thorley develop his game and he’s scored some amazing tries and trained with the England squad so that’s great recognition.
“It’s the same with Danny Cipriani, he came and immediately had an impact, so it’s great to have that recognition from players they play against.
Thank you 🙏🏽👣 pic.twitter.com/V1geVdv6zx
— Danny Cipriani (@DannyCipriani87) May 9, 2019
“The team must take a lot of credit as well, if they perform it helps individuals and it’s important that we recognise the team and everyone that puts the work in like the medical staff and conditioners etc to get the players at a level they want to be to be able to perform.
“It’s great to get Gloucester back on the map.”
Transfer rumours must not distract Club
On Chris Harris, Ackermann said, “I won’t put him out as a player we’ve looked at myself as I personally haven’t spoke about him so it’s probably come from the agents. We’re open to see if we can strengthen that area whilst we have injuries but there are a lot of names that’s been around the club.
“David [Humphreys] is in control of that and my biggest focus right now is Sale and the playoff and at some point we’ll have a meeting and see who’s available and suits our style but there’s nothing concluded on that.”
The Rugby Paper has also recently reported that Richard Whiffin is moving to the Scarlets. Ackermann explained, “I’m aware of that but I don’t want to elaborate on that. It’s up to the club and David [Humphreys] to talk about it and make announcements if they need to.
Sale game dress rehearsal for 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership playoffs
“It looks like Saracens but it can change. It’s a difficult one as I don’t think anything we achieve on Saturday or what we have achieved so far this season will have an affect on next week. It’ll be new territory for Gloucester as a team, playing in the playoffs is a one-off game, there’s no next week.
“We’ll see who’s fit and who isn’t and you just have to believe in yourself and what you want to achieve. I don’t want to put pressure on whoever plays on the weekend saying you’re responsible for getting us momentum.
Ackermann not risking anyone who’s less than 100%
“That’s the advantage, if there’s anyone in need of an extra week of rehab and extra conditioning then we have that luxury. The main aim for us is to get the side as well prepared for this game as any other game then reassess who’s 100% fit from Monday.
“We don’t want to go into next week with a 50/50 decision on anybody.”
“We expect the same 100% commitment in what we want to achieve. It looks great, the excitement is there in training and everybody had a good week off and wants to get stuck into it. There’s no reason for holding back, we can go out there and give it a big swing.”
“Sometimes it’s not ideal because it feels like you lose momentum and especially the fact that you can’t train every day in the off week at this stage of the season.
“You can’t have the week off either so getting the balance right is key. Suddenly you’re in a playing week and how much stronger and fitter can the guys be after months of rugby so it’s getting the balance right between the energy and the conditioning and still have the excitement”.
‘Challenging for the shirt’ is team’s motivation
“It [week off] gave us a lot of time to iron out the smaller detail in our game. Although we didn’t have the pressure in the last two games we still felt there were areas we had to improve in and that’s what this two weeks gave us.
“It gave us that opportunity and the excitement to give everyone a chance to keep that motivation and that’s part of why we give some guys the opportunity.”
Ackerman concluded that he unconsciously has ‘one eye on Saracens’. He noted that Glaws management had already looked at both Saracens and Exeter [as playoff opponents] and have a bit of a plan in place already.
“You don’t want to come in on Monday, and then start looking at it.”
After this weekends final season match with Sale, the future pathway for Gloucester will be set, in the highly anticipated 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership title race.
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