Sunwolves, Jaguares should have been axed, says Ackermann

Lions coach Johan Ackermann and flyhalf Elton Jantjies pose with the 2017 South African Conference trophy. Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

Outgoing Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes the Sunwolves of Japan and Argentina's Jaguares should have been axed from the Super Rugby competition for 2018, instead of the two South African sides that got the chop.

The Southern Kings and Cheetahs will exit the competition at the end of this season and now look set to become part of the Pro12 competition in Europe, which features teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy.

Three teams are being cut from the 2018 Super Rugby edition, reducing the sides from 18 to 15, with an Australian side (either the Rebels or the Force) joining the Eastern Cape and Free State sides on the scrap heap.

Ackermann says the Sunwolves and Jaguares have been given a "freebie" in SANZAAR's bid to try and expand the game, but don't necessarily add to the quality of the competition. "If you ask me, maybe we should have gone back to the old way and cut the teams from Argentina and Japan‚" Ackermann told reporters on the weekend.

"Why must they get a freebie after just one or two seasons? That's just my view and maybe I'm biased towards South African teams."

Ackermann knows first-hand the disappointment of being outside of Super Rugby, after the Lions were cut to accommodate the Kings in 2013, but says the Pro12 would be a good step forward for these teams.

"When the Lions got cut from Super Rugby we had to stand in the cold‚ nobody worried about creating a competition for us‚" he said.

"At least SA Rugby sought to find a quality competition for them to play in‚ in the Pro12. That can be massive for them as players to learn about the northern hemisphere and to challenge themselves.

"They are better off than we were. There is a lot talent. The Kings showed what they can do as a bunch of guys together. Hopefully this Pro12 or Pro14 will keep them together as a group and make us proud as South Africans."

But Ackermann, who leaves for English side Gloucester after the Super Rugby competition, says Super Rugby is where South Africa sides should be campaigning. He continued: "It is a sad day for those teams. They've played quality rugby‚ especially the Kings. They've had some tremendous wins this year. They've got quality players.

"They've developed all over. I had the privilege to work with Andisa [Ntsila] and Makazole Mapimpi at the SA A side and I truly believe they've got the potential to go all the way to Springbok rugby.

"It would have been great to still see those players in Super Rugby. The reality is the competition is changing. There was a committee and decisions were made."

The Lions topped the overall Super Rugby log this season, meaning they will have a home run to the final if they win their knockout matches, starting with a quarterfinal against the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday.