While Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks have had a well-deserved party over the past few weeks following their World Cup win, the Bok boss’ next assignment is a lot trickier, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Springboks have been together for about 22 weeks, with the last one probably being the hardest they had to get through. When they hit Cape Town on Monday, it looked like all those beers and double-brandies and Coke were becoming a lot more menacing than the England pack they faced in the World Cup final.
They were magnificent on this trophy tour, which has captured the imagination of the whole country and, indeed, the world. Coach Rassie Erasmus said after the World Cup final that they would celebrate properly over the next two weeks, and they have, with the whole of South Africa contributing to the countrywide party.
But the Boks would probably be the first to admit that they need a break and to spend some quality time with their loved ones, who haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with them since June.
Goodness knows whether the World Cup win has actually sunk in yet, because the last time some of them were actually sober was when Handre Pollard kicked the ball into the stands on referee Jerome Garces’ final whistle. The trophy tour would have given them some perspective about what the win meant to the country, but I suspect that they need a bit of peace and quiet to actually realise what they have achieved over the past couple of months.
Erasmus, especially, needs a mental break after everything he has put in over the past 18 months since taking over the Boks. The planning that has gone into this World Cup assault has been nothing short of mind-blowing, with Erasmus leaving nothing to chance. In the end, all his plans came to fruition.
But now Erasmus needs the rest to clear his mind before he takes up his day job of SA Rugby director of rugby. While the Boks were a hospital job 18 months ago, he now needs to get South Africa’s rugby out of the ICU over the next couple of years.
The Boks World Cup win was amazing, but we mustn’t forget that our rugby has been in decline over the last few years. The SA U20 team hasn’t won a world title since 2012, while the standard of the Currie Cup is getting worse and worse.
The number of quality players leaving for big-money deals overseas has also left South Africa’s Super Rugby teams crippled and battling for resources. There is also a lack of quality coaching throughout the system, which is why the best schoolboys rugby players in the world sometimes struggle to take their play to the next level.
SA Rugby’s scouting model and talent identification must also change. No longer can the big rugby schools be the only sources of talent. There are more Mapimpis, Ams, Kolbes and Vermeulens in the rural areas just waiting to get a chance to show their worth.
The good news is that Erasmus is aware of the challenges, and he also knows its going to take some time to try to sort it out. But the World Cup win is a nice platform from which to work from, because it’s the sort of shot in the arm this country and the rugby fraternity needed to get cracking again.
Erasmus and the Boks have celebrated the World Cup win with plenty of gusto alongside the rest of the country. But the work starts again next week.