Rassie Erasmus's biggest role as Saru high-performance manager is to implement Heyneke Meyer's blueprint across the board, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Since joining Saru in April 2012, Erasmus, who was credited with turning Western Province and the Stormers around, has been working tirelessly to implement a new structure in South African rugby, building a team of coaches, analysts and medical staff who can help develop the country's best young talent into potential Springbok candidates. The former Springbok flank is at the U18 Craven Week, which he believes plays an integral role in this development.
'Firstly it's important to give the boys the honour of representing their provinces at this stage of their rugby career and then to see how they perform under pressure,' Erasmus told SARugbymag.co.za. 'We have a number of people on the ground here – including those from our development and high-performance departments, as well as the U20 coaches and national selectors – and we're rating the players as they play.
'We're having a workshop with the players this week where we get them onto the database. We want to make sure that by the time they get to U20 level with [Junior Boks coach] Dawie [Theron], there's not too much to be done.'
Erasmus's role as high-performance manager is far-reaching. He oversees an expansive team all with one main goal: to implement Meyer's Springbok blueprint at all levels. It's a system that has proven effective across codes, most notably with the German football team that was recently crowned world champions. Such continuity will only help with the transition of young players into the senior ranks, says Erasmus.
'Our biggest role is to take Heyneke's blueprint and try to filter it down to Dawie. One of the nice things about Heyneke is his willingness to share ideas with everybody. The Mobi-Unit guys – Louis Koen, Chean Roux and Pieter de Villiers – work with the Springboks and have first-hand experience of Heyneke's coaching techniques and philosophies.
'Dawie also uses them at SA U20 level, so all that knowledge is shared, but he can still make decisions on which aspects he's going to use. At this stage he's incorporated a lot of the stuff and it's working really well for him, but he's also added his own flavour to the game plan. It makes it easier for a player like Handré Pollard or Pieter-Steph du Toit to move up through the ranks. So we want to take the blueprint to the SA Schools team and as far down the system as we can.'
Craven Week remains the pinnacle of schoolboy rugby, but what of the boys who aren't selected for one reason or another? Players like Bryan Habana and Willie le Roux never represented their provinces on South African schoolboy rugby's greatest stage. Erasmus was quick to stress that failure to play at the Craven Week is not the end of the line for talented youngsters.
'You don't want to exclude guys who don't make Craven Week for future Springbok selection, but obviously if you get to Craven Week then you've got enough talent. We've got a scouting system where we look for guys who through no fault of their own don't make the Craven Week sides, but most of the boys playing here will make up the SA U20 squad eventually.'
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images