Rassie Erasmus remains confident that the Springboks will reach their target of 45% black-player representation over the course of the 2018 Test season. JON CARDINELLI reports.
It’s no secret that SA Rugby has set some lofty transformation targets for the 2019 season. Come the World Cup in Japan next year, the Bok coach will be under pressure to select a side that is 50% white and 50% black.
This year, the franchises have been instructed to select teams that are 45% black. The national side is under pressure to field a more transformed combination, and the new coach is confident that the Boks will – over the course of the 2018 season – meet the requirement.
It may be easier said than done, though. The franchises have failed to transform sufficiently in recent times. While slow progress has been made over the past few years, a 45% representation at this stage is a big ask.
Erasmus, however, feels that the Boks will hit that target, whether the franchises play their part or not.
‘We must talk about it,’ the new coach said of transformation and the targets in place this season.
‘The targets are 45% this year. To be honest with you, it’s not 45% in every single game, it’s a target that must be reached over the course of the season. If I don’t reach that target by the end of the season, I won’t achieve one of my KPIs [key performance indicators].
‘It can be tough when you have five injuries, but you have to make a plan [to replace those players]. If I don’t make the 45% target, I will be in trouble. It is what it is and we must work around that.’
Erasmus said that he understands the challenges faced by the franchises on this front. He was head coach of the Cheetahs in 2007 and at the helm of the Stormers between 2008 and 2009 (he also served as the Stormers director of rugby between 2010 and 2012).
‘I understand where they are coming from. [Stormers coach] Robbie Fleck must keep his job and [Sharks coach] Rob du Preez must keep his job. They might help me and the Boks, but then they may get fired from their jobs. Nobody is going to say thank you to them for what they did for the Boks.
‘The Boks win in that scenario, but the franchise coach is without a job. I’m not just talking transformation now. Sometimes we would like a guy at inside centre and the franchise will pick him at flyhalf. We will always leave the franchise coach to make the decision.’
Erasmus went on to explain how the relationship between the Bok coach and the respective franchises has improved over the past few months.
‘Things are turning around. Trevor Nyakane is starting [regularly for the Bulls] and playing wonderful rugby. He’s getting a lot of game time. Stormers flank Siya Kolisi’s game is getting back to where it was.
‘At the end of the day, you don’t have to have every single franchise playing 10 to 15 [black] players. If we count the Kings and Cheetahs [who are currently competing in the Pro14], there are 26 to 28 guys performing well. There are only spots for 23 [in a Bok match-day squad].
‘Yes, it would be great if there was a better representation in the franchise teams,’ Erasmus added. ‘But hell, I also understand that sometimes the franchises are in trouble with injuries or a lack of form.’
Erasmus said a few players have caught his eye in recent weeks. Many of these are players of colour.
‘I’m excited about Aphiwe Dyantyi, I’m excited about Madosh Tambwe. It’s interesting, if Madosh goes over to New Zealand and does well [with the Lions], we can stay excited about him. Let’s see how he goes on defence and under the high ball.
‘Damian Willemse has been excellent, but there will come a time where he feels the pressure. You look at Damian two weeks ago [when he excelled] and then he struggled a bit [recently].
‘There are a lot of guys to get excited about. Adriaan Strauss is playing well currently. Trevor Nyakane is playing well. We’re excited now, but you know how form goes.
‘We keep tabs on all the players and pick a form team each week and discuss it. Overall, I’m excited about the talent at our disposal.’