Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann has told his players they have “a serious problem” if they cannot motivate themselves for their crucial clash with Munster.
Gloucester welcome Munster to Kingsholm Stadium tomorrow, with both sides fighting hard to qualify for the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions Cup.
Munster sit top of Pool 2 on 12 points but, despite being bottom, Gloucester trail them by just four and could leapfrog them with a win.
While the Premiership side are on a poor run of form — having suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers — Ackermann has warned his squad that is no reason for them to sulk and, if a clash with Munster cannot spur them into action, nothing will.
“If you ask the players: ‘Do you get a better or bigger challenge?’ They would say: ‘No, this is it.’ It is an opportunity,” said Ackermann.
“Yes we haven’t performed as well as we wanted in the last few weeks, but if you can’t get motivated for this game then there is a serious problem. You can fire and shout and do as much as you can, it is what you want to do on the day. If you play the Munsters, the Leinsters, those kind of teams at home, on a Friday night, in a competition like the Heineken Cup, that is what you train for and play for, apart from international games. So it is a massive challenge.
“We can only look forward. History cannot be changed and the past can’t be changed.
“We obviously took a lot of lessons out of that [defeats to Sale and Leicester], tried to implement that into the training and look at where we can get better, but we are not going to keep on sulking about it.”
Tomorrow’s match is very much a do-or-die affair for Gloucester, with anything other than a victory putting an end to their qualification hopes.
With that in mind, Ackermann is keen for his players to park their dip in domestic form, which has led to them slipping to fourth in the Premiership.
Instead, the South African is calling on his players to go out with a positive mindset that could secure the victory needed to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
“We are going to need a lot of heart this Friday, because we are playing against a side that is going to play with a lot of heart,” said Ackermann. “The reality is the challenge is massive on Friday. If you are going to go in with a negative mindset, it is not going to help.
“It was obviously disappointing and not good for us having those losses, but my message was quite clear to the players, that life is carrying on. Let’s live for today and that is what we can control. We can only look forward.
“We can’t use anything as an excuse, other than looking at ourselves. We believe we can be a better side, so can we make less errors and can we have that consistency? I believe we can.”
Key to Gloucester’s chances of victory will be Danny Cipriani, who has been sidelined for the past four weeks with a chest injury.
Gloucester’s recent losses have come without their star fly-half, but he could return for tomorrow’s match. The 31-year-old will undergo a fitness test today in the hope he can feature. Hooker Jaco Visagie, wing Ollie Thorley and full-back Jason Woodward will also have last-minute tests.