Rassie Erasmus’ commitment to the Springbok cause will ensure rivals in world rugby remain on high alert, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After leading the Springboks on a remarkable resurrection, which culminated in World Cup success last November, it’s understandable that Erasmus’ stocks as a coach rocketed in world rugby circles.
Some reported interest from England came almost on cue, especially when word got around that Erasmus was only tied into a four-year contract with SA Rugby (and not the originally stated six).
However, it’s understood that Erasmus has been locked in by SA Rugby through to the 2023 World Cup, and the decision should come as no surprise.
The 47-year-old’s passion for the Springboks burns as brightly as ever, while he is determined to oversee a period of sustained success that can rival what the All Blacks achieved over a period of hegemony that included back-to-back world titles.
For Erasmus, his gig as the Bok head coach was a dream job, but he’s also been willing to shift focus into other areas. As dedicated director of rugby, he will be responsible for strategy and results while new head coach Jacques Nienaber will take charge of the day-to-day team operations of the Springboks.
The alignment and understanding between these two close friends and long-serving coaches is unparalleled in world rugby at the moment.
In the months that have followed the Springboks’ World Cup triumph, Erasmus, Nienaber and the Bok management haven’t just been putting up their feet to watch some Vodacom Super Rugby.
The planning and preparation for the upcoming Test season has been intense, with the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour also remaining very much on the radar.
After a stint with Irish club Munster, both Erasmus and Nienaber returned to South Africa with a heightened sense of what was required in terms of improving the so-called ‘professionalism’ among players, administration, coaches and much more.
If you’re wondering how this translates to success, take a listen to an interview with in-form Sharks No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe conducted this week as he detailed what it would take for him to break back in to the national set-up.
‘In 2018 when I had my opportunity with the Boks, it was an eye-opener for me personally because one thing that struck me is that Rassie said the only way we should motivate people is by playing well. That’s how you inspire people and give them hope.
‘Mentally that is something I’ve stolen or learned from Rassie. I’ve put in my mind how I need to inspire people, it’s not about tweeting the best tweet or anything else, you have to show it between the four lines on the field.’
This is what it’s about for the Springboks under the new leadership. Egos have to be put aside. Performance, attitude and professionalism is all that really matters.
If the Boks are to build on the success of the World Cup, they have to continue to adapt, innovate and evolve.
There is a lot more for this group of players and coaches to still achieve. It’s no wonder world rugby opponents have been sitting up and taking notice, as most aptly highlighted in a comment from Eddie Jones in his post-World Cup autobiography, which I’ll leave you with:
‘It’s inspiring to see the benefits of the development programmes [in SA rugby], where black and ‘coloured’ players emerged in the build-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. They have asserted themselves and demanded selection on the basis of their performances.
‘South Africa is the sleeping giant of world rugby and could grow into an ever-greater superpower if they maintain their development programmes!’
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images
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