Cape Town - “We only play rugby for two reasons – to score tries and to inspire people.”
These are the words of the new Lions head coach Swys de Bruin, who was announced on Tuesday as the new leader of the Lions’ pride when current coach Johan Ackermann departs for his new position at Gloucester at the end of this year’s Super Rugby series.
De Bruin, who has a wealth of experience, having started his coaching career at schools level way back in 1983, will formally move from assistant coach to head coach when the season ends, and isn’t planning to rock the boat at all as the new leader.
De Bruin’s pedigree is a rich one, having coached Griquas for five years before moving to the Sharks where he headed the academy and coached the under-19s, under-21s and the Wildebeest side before the opportunity came to join Ackermann at the Lions.
And the bond between De Bruin, Ackermann, defence coach JP Ferreira and conditioning head Ivan van Rooyen (or Cash, as he is known to the team) has built a dynasty out of the ashes that has firmly established the Lions as the top side in South African rugby once again.
De Bruin’s philosophy is simple. There is little that needs to change. The team will miss their inspirational head coach, but the recipe is right and it will be business as usual when he takes over.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” De Bruin told Supersport.com.
“Ackers, myself, JP and Cash have come a long way over the past five years. We’ve built this over five years and everyone had an important part to play. I did the attack, JP defence, Cash the fitness and Ackers was the head coach over everything. It is actually quite easy - we will have the same attack, same defence and perhaps we will be a bit fitter, if I know Cash.
“Other than losing Ackers’ unbelievable leadership, there isn’t much that will change for us.”
De Bruin says that it will never be easy to replace someone like Ackermann, but he believes the team will be able to continue without him. Still, he knows Gloucester have signed a top coach that will take them forward.
“We bless him when he goes and we know he will do well in his new job. I think he has meant so much for South African rugby over the past five years. He has been coach of the year for the last three years and it is ironic that after that he wasn’t part of the Springbok management. I think he should have been there a long time ago, but that’s just my opinion.”
While a replacement needs to be found to take over the forwards, De Bruin believes it is just a matter of time before they find the right person that will fit in with the team culture and contribute positively to the way the Lions play.
“We are looking at a few people, but the main thing is that whoever comes in has to fit in with the culture and ethos of the team at the moment. They also have big shoes to fill, because nobody has been able to get the pack moving forward like Ackers did, and that’s a major thing for us.”
Above all, the new coach promised fans that the same recipe will be followed and that the two pillars of the Lions’ success will stay the same.
“I realised in this time that we’ve got amazing fans and we’ve made friends across the country with the way we play. We only play for two reasons, to score tries and to inspire people with the way we play. That is what we are going to carry on with. We aren’t going to change anything, that I can promise you.
De Bruin will officially take charge at the end of Super Rugby, although the overlap with the Currie Cup means that the coaching team that has been with the Golden Lions in the SuperSport challenge will continue for the first three games.
Thereafter, De Bruin takes control for the rest of the Currie Cup and more importantly next season’s Super Rugby onslaught.
Read the story on SuperSport.com