Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber says it is “business as usual” inside the camp despite embarking on their first tour without Rassie Erasmus since 2018.
Erasmus served as the Springboks’ ‘water carrier’ in the British & Irish Lions series and ferried messages to the team, but after missing the first Test against Argentina in order to spend time with his family, he was back in the coaching box for the rematch with Los Pumas in Port Elizabeth.
However, the Springboks embarked on the remainder of the Rugby Championship campaign in Australia without the director of rugby, with SA Rugby confirming at the time that he may only join the team for the latter stages of the tour.
SA Rugby said that Erasmus would remain in South Africa in order to allow the team to focus on the competition.
After announcing the team to face the Wallabies in Gold Coast on Sunday, Nienaber was asked whether things inside the camp have been any different in Erasmus’ absence.
The Springbok coach explained that Erasmus was still doing his best to contribute to the team’s preparation from South Africa.
“From my side, I had a conversation 15 minutes ago. The key thing between myself and Rassie, on a personal level, is that we operate a little bit differently than a normal director of rugby and head coach,” Nienaber said. “Even when he was head coach, and I was assistant coach, we operated a little bit differently.
“The best way to describe it, is that we probably are not confined by our job titles. Being director of rugby almost puts you in a box and you operate in that scope. But we don’t work like that. The team understands that I have certain responsibilities and Rassie has got certain responsibilities. In all my responsibilities, he gives input. Not only him, but the rest of the coaching staff as well. It’s vice versa with Rassie. He will have certain aspects that he is responsible for, that I will give input there.
“In that sense, it sounds weird, but our life is going on between myself and him as per normal, between his engagement with our team as per normal. One positive about Covid-19, is that technology has made the world small. You can be in somebody else’s living room in 10 seconds. We go through the same weekly structure and programme, as if he was here.
“Hats off to him for almost flipping his days and nights around to fit in with our schedule. He will sit in with our team meetings, obviously he is not on the pitch. But he will be part of us during the day when he can join us. For me, sitting here, it’s business as usual in terms of our working relationship.”
Nienaber was further pressed on whether the Springboks would miss having Erasmus inside the camp, but pointed out this would not be the first time that the team would prepare without him being physically present.
“He’s wasn’t with us in the week before the first Argentina Test, before the second Test against the British & Irish Lions. There are certain days he won’t be with us. He sometimes has director of rugby stuff that he has to adhere to. Sometimes he won’t go with us to training sessions, he won’t travel with us in the bus to a Test match on the day of the match. He might arrive a bit later because he has got some stuff that he is responsible for from a director of rugby point of view.
“So, he has been with us the majority of the time, but there have been times when he hasn’t been with us for a period. If I think back to that Test against Argentina, he wasn’t there for the whole week and in the game. But he was with us virtually.
“It will be the first time that he isn’t with us on tour since 2018.”
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