By Alex Marrow, Sportsbeat

Small changing rooms and muddy conditions posed the biggest challenge to Gloucester flanker Ruan Ackermann in his attempt to adapt to life in England.

The South African flanker arrived at Kingsholm from Super Rugby runners-up, the Lions, in August, along with his father, Johan, Gloucester’s head coach.

The 22-year-old admitted that playing conditions were somewhat different to what he was used to in the Southern hemisphere, but explained that his teammates made him feel at home straight from the off.

Ackermann said: “Probably the biggest challenge for me was the weather, with a few more rainy and muddy games than in Super Rugby, but it really went well.

“I came in quite rushed after the Super Rugby final but the boys really welcomed me and I really felt at home from game one.

“It started so well beating Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm and I’ve been fortunate to get starts and game time.

“I needed to get a feeling of how the Premiership is.

“There is always added motivation when it’s your first season because you do want to prove a point, so that was something that has driven me this season.”

The back row forward has enjoyed a superb debut campaign with the Cherry and Whites, forcing his way into the team and with a potential Challenge Cup title in the offing.

Gloucester take on Cardiff Blues in Bilbao on Friday looking to secure some silverware after an up-and-down league campaign that saw them finish seventh in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, pipped into the top half by local rivals Bath.

Ackermann said: “There was a patch in the middle where things went well and then we kind of lost our way with a few disappointing results, but the one that stands out is the game against Bath at Kingsholm.

“It just didn’t go our way at all. It’s always a big derby and especially at Kingsholm in front of the fans we felt like we let ourselves down and them as well.”

But the South African is hopeful he and his teammates can repay the supporters for their support and is anticipating a high-octane match.

He said: “Cardiff Blues have had a really upward season and there will be positive vibes in their camp with the way things are going.

“You can see in the way they played against Pau in the semi-final how badly they want it and they are a quality side.

“For me it’s all about having respect for the opposition – they will come out all guns blazing, so I’m very much looking forward to that.”

Winning the Challenge Cup is the team’s goal, but on a personal level, Ackermann could add the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award as the cherry on top of his debut season.

Nominated alongside fellow Gloucester player Jake Polledri, the award recognises the most impressive young players in Premiership Rugby this season.

The Land Rover Discovery of the season nominee added: “I’m really grateful to have been nominated and it will be a really special welcome if I do get it, but with Jake on the list as well, it shows how tough it will be.

“He’s had a great season too and it has been really nice playing with him, but it would be a great little spoil.”

The Land Rover Discovery of The Season award recognises Premiership Rugby’s stand out young player. Land Rover has a heritage in rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite. Follow @LandRoverRugby