Rassie Erasmus. Picture: ALON SKUY
Rassie Erasmus. Picture: ALON SKUY

As head of a now streamlined coaching staff‚ new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus knows his success may be determined by a much wider collective.

Shortly after being unveiled as the 14th man to be appointed to the position since readmission‚ Erasmus spoke about the importance of aligning systems so that whatever the Boks deliver is a coordinated effort.

His time at Munster in Ireland, where playing resources were limited, would have trained his senses on the value of a coordinated approach.

Getting collective buy-in from those who will later fight for their own survival is easier said than done.

So far‚ however‚ Erasmus is happy with what he has observed around the Super Rugby franchises. He and his assistants have been and will continue to spend time with the four Super Rugby entities.

As much as the 45-year-old, who played in 36 Tests, delivered broad strokes in setting out his agenda‚ he was pressed on the most urgent area of national rugby that needs improving.

"Our aerial skills‚" Erasmus said. "Everybody will come for us in that area. I don’t want to sound too clever now singling out things."

It is an area the Boks had better brush up on throughout the franchises. Erasmus’s first assignment is a tricky one. In June the Springboks travel to Washington, in the US, where they hope to have the measure of Wales, who beat them in November. A week later the Boks play England at altitude and Erasmus intimated he may rope in Europe-based players.

He talked about "testing" players in those initial skirmishes. "I know it looks like suicide on the outside‚" he said about the scheduling of the first two Tests.

"It gives us 18 Tests before the World Cup and not 17 and that is the context in which we look at it. Obviously we want to win that game but we have to juggle a bit and be creative because a week later we play England at altitude at Ellis Park."

Do not be surprised to see some seasoned and decorated Springboks emerging from their respective European clubs.

He agreed that splitting the resources would be part of the plan. Erasmus believes England are formidable but beatable.

Understandably, he did not go into detail about the playing style the Boks are likely to adopt. He did‚ however‚ mention the importance of physicality‚ an element of the Bok game that in the past filled their opponents with dread.

Their opponents’ superior coaching and conditioning have helped negate that traditional strength but Erasmus still sees value in one of the game’s primal pursuits. He was coy about leadership‚ stressing that whoever would wear the captain’s armband would be an undisputed first choice in the team.

Probed on the matter, he kept referring to Eben Etzebeth‚ Warren Whitely and Siya Kolisi as having fulfilled leadership roles under the previous coach. He suggested it may be unwise to look beyond those names.

Erasmus seemed quite enthusiastic about what he saw in the Lions’ Aphiwe Dyantyi in the first two rounds of the Super Rugby tournament.

Erasmus will have three assistants in Jacques Nienaber‚ Pieter de Villiers and Mzwandile Stick. Aled Walters‚ who was part of Munster’s staff when Erasmus coached there, will be head of athletic performance. The roles of the assistant coa-ches have not yet been defined.

Stick‚ who also hails from the same patch in the Eastern Cape‚ has high hopes. He vacated the job as backline coach after just one season under former coach Allister Coetzee.

Erasmus is under no illusions about expectations and the fine print in his dual job that is supposed to keep him in the employ of SA Rugby until 2023.

Should he get there, he will be the longest serving Bok coach by far, outlasting Jake White, who was in charge for four years while plotting the way in 54 Tests.

He will have his hands full.

With a streamlined coaching staff‚ Erasmus will also juggle other tasks in the absence of a dedicated team manager.

"If you win‚ fine‚ if you don’t win you quickly move out of the job," he said.


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