Crusaders were deserved winners - Ackermann

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Sunday, August 6, 2017    Getty Images

He leaves the side to take up a position with Gloucester in the English Premiership on Wednesday.

"The Crusaders are a very good rugby side. They've been good the whole year and been very consistent. They had one blemish [when losing to the Hurricanes in the last round-robin game], but for the rest, they were superb.

"All credit to them. They did their homework…and we can't take anything away from them. We can argue about the 'what ifs', but tonight, they were well deserved winners," he said.

The final was made all the tougher when losing flanker Kwagga Smith to a red card for dangerous play on Crusaders fullback David Havili as he attempted to take the ball in the air two minutes before halftime.

"I asked the players at halftime to not give up and they didn't…and that was very pleasing. There were a few moments that cost us and allowed the game to slip away, but that's sport.

"The red card obviously cost us, but then their first try [to wing Seta Tamanivalu in the seventh minute] came against the run of play. We were doing all the play, but we lost the ball in the ruck, and I believe that score gave them a confidence boost," he said.

"They also won a few crucial lineouts off us at the end and Rohan Janse van Rensburg went close too, but lost the ball. If we could have scored late on and made it a one-point game, and then maybe force a penalty…but it wasn't to be. At 25-3 down [by the 53rd minute], we left things too late.

"But playing with 14 men for so long against the Crusaders and to get as close as we did, I'm proud of the guys."

Ackermann said he never felt losing a player during a game was the ideal.

"I don't think it's fair on 62,000 people to pay and then see 14 versus 15. I said earlier this year when Robbie Coetzee was red-carded how I feel…and that is that I believe these matters can be dealt with after a match," he said.

"There was no dirty play involved, but rather an interpretation about physics and the law…but common sense says something else.

"I'm not going to judge Kwagga on one incident. He's a great person and he's been tremendous for us the whole season. He's a great character off the field and been man of the match four times this season, and we still love and respect him."

Ackermann said leaving the side to coach in England would be tough.

"I always thought it would be easy to move on. It's tough. I must be honest in saying that I doubted if I had made the right decision this morning…it's harder than what I thought it was going to be.

"To think where we were in 2014 after a lot of guys left the [Gauteng] union and we get together as a new group.

"Courtnall Skosan, Robbie Coetzee, Franco Mostert, Warwick Tecklenburg, Schalk van der Merwe, Willie Britz…when we got onto the plan for the first time on tour, 24 of the 26 guys were going to Australasia for the first time.

"The growth of the team, now we've got 11 or 12 Springboks, that's a highlight for me because I think we all coach to get the players to the highest position they can be," he said.