Inside the Office, where we bring you the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics. Join the conversation by tweeting us @sarugbymag.
This week we discuss the praise surrounding Rassie Erasmus, doping in schoolboy rugby, the Swys de Bruin bombshell and Aphiwe Dyantyi’s World Cup hopes.
A month away from the World Cup and attack coach Swys de Bruin has pulled out. He’s had his issues in the past, where does this latest setback place him going forward?
Craig Lewis, editor (@craigolewis): It’s a bit of a bolt from the blue to be honest. It appeared to me that there were maybe some off-field elements that were creating the stress. Swys always spoke of what a privilege the Bok job was for him and he really appeared to be thriving in it. The reasons must be serious for him to take a leave of absence.
Dylan Jack, staff writer (@dylanmattjack): A shock really. I’m sure there wasn’t anyone in the squad that anticipated it. He has been spoken so highly of and was a key part of the team going forward. This isn’t the first time and I’m sure it runs deeper than what anyone can speculate on. Let’s hope he takes a period away from the game do some introspection and find ways to cope.
Wade Pretorius, contributor (@wadepretorius): It won’t be easy for him, for sure. He still has his Lions deal, so his skills will remain in the system. Let’s hope for a masterstroke – as Schalk Burger called it at a function on Wednesday – from Rassie and that he brings someone dynamic into the fold and quickly.
Speaking of Schalk Burger, he believes the Rugby Championship has proven the team’s credentials as potential World Cup winners. Has Rassie Erasmus received enough praise for the turnaround?
Lewis: I’d say so but in the same way, we also need to cool our jets. There’s been a marked improvement, but we are still waiting on the ultimate test … how we perform in the World Cup. He’s got his dues, but now we move on and forward. He’ll also want to be judged on the World Cup.
Jack: Agreed! Maybe the talking point could be ‘Has the technical team been praised enough?’ here too. They came in for quite a lot of criticism but under new head coach, they’ve been praised as some of the best in the system. We could talk more about Rassie’s processes and systems. His split squad, staying in New Zealand before playing Argentina away etc. Let’s hope we see the fruits of the decisions at the World Cup, the bonding and time away from rugby and the SA media in New Zealand could prove to be a real factor in a few weeks time.
Pretorius: I’m not sure. I wasn’t enamoured by Erasmus when he started but he’s been at the helm of a remarkable turnaround. For many fans, there was a feeling of gloom going into 2019. There was a below-average Vodacom Super Rugby campaign and now a few weeks later, we are talking up the Boks as favourites. Let’s give him his last little bit of praise before the cauldron of the World Cup takes over.
Where do we stand on Aphiwe Dyantyi and the World Cup? Does he go or is it a risk not worth taking?
Pretorius: I can’t believe that we’re having this conversation. Not because it isn’t topical but, rather, because he’s gone from one of the key players to being on the verge of missing out.
Lewis: And that’s it really … do they take a risk on his fitness knowing what he offers and he goes to the World Cup with zero game time. Or do they look to fill the spot with another outside-back option?
Jack: How quickly does rugby change? Dyantyi goes from breakthrough Player of the Year to this selection talking point. And it’s not through any fault of his own. An injury at the worst time and combine that with other players performing well in his absence have left us here. Don’t forget it was a rather up-and-down Super Rugby campaign for him, too.
Lewis: It’s a tough sport and for me, and most I would guess, the issue is that no one should be boarding the plane to Japan on reputation. He will have hardly had any game time before the World Cup squad announcement, and it will be tough to throw him in for the first game against the All Blacks. So, does he go and get a run in the second game and build up some match fitness, or even prove his match-day fitness?
Pretorius: We have Nkosi, Kolbe and Mapimpi … and Kriel too. Is his race run? Mad to think where we are today talking about this.
Doping in schoolboys sport/rugby has reared its ugly head once again. Where are we with getting a handle on the problem and is enough being done to stamp it out?
Jack: Firstly, let’s point out that this isn’t a unique problem to South Africa. When a particular case is brought to light, the conversation gets going again. I’d hate to think that nothing is being actively done to try rid this element from the game. I guess it’s like anything in life – people know or will try to find new ways of bending the rules. Or breaking them without getting caught. It doesn’t mean that everyone is doing it. But, of course, doping in schoolboys rugby is a serious issue that has the potential to spiral.
Lewis: It’s a complicated one, for sure. And one with massive implications. SA Rugby isn’t in charge of the schoolboys game but maybe there needs to be greater presence from them? There are just too many rumours of doping and dark arts/culture at this level that gets overlooked or swept under the carpet. Is this a big part of the over-serious nature of schoolboys rugby? 100% I would have to say.
Pretorius: Arguably one of the most serious issues in the game. Everyone loves the gees of a big derby day and that turns into pressure on to teenagers trying to impress coaches and scouts. It’s gotten a bit out of control now and certainly, we need authorities to clamp down.
Photo: Steve Haag