Johan Ackermann’s surprise exit from Gloucester for a job in the Japanese Top League has left The Rugby Pod asking serious questions of Gloucester CEO Lance Bradley, who only took over last year from Stephen Vaughan, current boss at Premiership rivals Wasps. Gloucester admitted last Friday that the South African was off to take up a new role at Red Hurricanes in July.
This was despite Ackermann having signed a contract extension at the Kingsholm club just last May after he guided them into the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.
At that time, David Humphreys, the club’s director of rugby, enthused: “Johan’s contribution over the past two seasons has been terrific. We knew when we first approached him about the head coach role here at Gloucester that we had targeted the right man – and he has fully validated that decision.”
Twelve months later, though, there has been a curious parting of the ways, the 49-year-old believing his future is now best served in the Far East rather than continuing at the English club he joined from the Super Rugby Lions in 2017.
It’s an exit that doesn’t sit right with Andy Goode, who used the latest episode of The Rugby Pod to claim that Ackermann was forced out by alleged manoeuvrings behind his back that involved CEO Bradley.
“From the outside, when you hear the news and when you find out what has gone on everyone will be surprised,” said Goode, the ex-England out-half. “When you don’t know the intricate details of the club and look into it, you are very shocked because he is such a good guy. He’s always smiling, has always got a smile on his face.
“The rumours you are hearing around the club is everyone wants to play for him, everyone wants to work for him, he is a really nice guy, kind. He let all the (overseas) guys leave to go back to their families when the pandemic kicked in so they could self-isolate and not be in lockdown in a country separate from their families.
“I started looking into it. I thought this is weird, it doesn’t sit right me with me why he has left and why he has left now as well when the season could come back. You start looking into some changes. Last year, they get into the play-offs, Stephen Vaughan was the CEO, they changed CEO over the summer, Lance Bradley comes in which for me was a bit of a change and a bit of a surprise because why do you change a CEO when you have just started to have some really good impacts?
“You have made some really quality changes around your squad, around your coaching department and you have got stability in Johan Ackermann. You change the CEO and I started doing my research into that. Lance Bradley, from what I hear, acts more like a super fan than a CEO. I mean, from the rumours that I am hearing around the club, in the changing rooms trying to be best mates with the players. And then you dig a little bit deeper and you sit there and start finding out why has this happened to Ackermann.
“You start hearing they brought in Rory Teague, (Danny) Cipriani, some of the issues that he has had around selection, non-selection, what’s happening. Then you start hearing rumours and whispers. I heard there was a bit of a coup around players and coaches not being aligned and very few of them not being aligned but going to Bradley and saying right we need to make changes… I don’t think it’s the last change we are going to see at the club either.
“Gloucester were on a fantastic pathway with David Humphreys as your director off rugby, Johan Ackermann as your head coach, they had a squad that was ever-improving, they got to the playoffs last year.
“Okay, this year they are sat in ninth but you only need to win a couple of games and you’re up to fourth again. I don’t read too much into this year. What I do read a lot into is the changes that have been made, Lance Bradley changing things at the club, and then there potentially being a bit of a coup to go behind Ackermann’s back by a player, by a coach, by someone.
“Johan has got wind of this and said, ‘Right, if that is the way I am going to be treated, that is what is happening behind my back, can I go and speak to other clubs? Do I see a future here at Gloucester? Well, no I don’t.’
“I don’t think it’s the last change we’re going to see at the club”
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) May 19, 2020
“That is what happened. He went to speak to other clubs and he got a fantastic offer to go and coach in Japan. It’s bizarre, really bizarre, and really bad management from a CEO perspective. I just do not understand how you can ever build stability when that is the way you act around a club. This is what I’m being told by sources as to what has happened. It’s very messy. I’m just being honest from what I hear.”
Ex-Gloucester skipper Jim Hamilton, Goode’s podcast co-star, was perturbed by the revelations. “I’m gutted and surprised. I did not see that coming at all. Gloucester haven’t played well this season… but this Premiership was a slightly strange one. I don’t think Cipriani was playing as well as he was last year and they have got a few guys in their team who would have been away at the World Cup as well.
“I’m absolutely gutted as a Gloucester fan, and I was captain there. They have been a club that have had so many different changes along the way and I’m trying to work out what has gone on here, why Johan Ackermann would leave to go to Japan when the job isn’t even half done.
“If he went to South Africa and took the job under Rassie Erasmus I would be like that is where I see you going, but the Gallagher Premiership have lost a really good rugby man. I know the lads at Gloucester absolutely loved working for him and the staff as well. Just a warm guy.”
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