Ackermann done playing games with Sharks

South African loose forward Ruan Ackermann has put friendships on hold as Gloucester and the Sharks gear up for a blockbuster European cup decider on Friday night.

The back-row powerhouse is set to run out for the Cherry and Whites against his compatriots in the Challenge Cup final at London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Ackermann, who joined Gloucester from the Lions in 2017, has become a vital asset for the English outfit, and ended speculations of a return home by extending his contract at Premiership club in February.

Speaking in the buildup to the EPCR showpiece, the 28-year-old flanker shared his relationship with the Sharks rank and file while emphasising the importance of the clash for George Skivington's charges.

"I am good friends with some of the Sharks players so we were making jokes that if you guys keep winning and we keep winning we are going to see you guys in the final; as it has got closer those jokes have got a bit less," Ackermann was quoted in the media.

"We play a little bit of CoD [Call of Duty] on the PlayStation together, boys like Vincent Koch and Francois Venter, one or two of the other boys as well. Vincent Koch is the sort of guy who takes his gaming laptop with him when he goes on those [Vodacom] URC tours, he is really on it.

"We often play on a Sunday after a game but we haven't been playing for a week or two now, we know the final is coming.

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"It has been a few years since I last played against a South African team, so on a personal note it is something I will look forward to."

"They have got some big names, players who have won World Cups, so from an experience point of view they have been there and done that, but this is Europe and it is something new for them as well even though they have got those big name players in there," he added.

"But in general, we are going to have a massive focus on us because this is a massive opportunity to win two trophies in one season."

Winning the second-tier Challenge Cup will secure safe passage back to the Champions Cup next season for the Sharks and Skivington's troops, too, have prioritised EPCR success over domestic ambitions.

"There is a bit of an extra buzz around the place this week, you can feel it when you walk into a room," Ackermann said. "The objective is to bring more silverware to Gloucester. You get to a final and then you have just got to throw everything at it.

"We put our eggs in the basket… which is why it makes it a big week for us.

"There is no getting away from the physicality with the Sharks. If you are not ready for that physicality battle it is going to be a long day.

"We pride ourselves on our set piece and we work really hard on it, and so do they. It is a South African trait to have a very strong set piece, so I expect that to be a very competitive area of the game."

Photo: @gloucesterrugby/Twitter

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