Rassie holds steady amid Bok euphoria
SA coach expects second Test to be even more intense and England to be smarter
Although his selections and the result of Saturday’s Test at Ellis Park would have had the hearts of a large swathe of the population beating with pride, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus at his core remains a pragmatist.
Erasmus knows the pervading feel-good factor following his team’s 42-39 win has a distinct shelf life. "Everybody talks about rugby having to be this unifying factor. However, it will only be a unifying factor if you win," he said.
Not that he is devoid of a beating heart himself.
"I’m so glad for everything else that is happening. I know it is a long road ahead, but there is a lot of good that came out of Saturday for SA."
Erasmus was quick to warn of "a long road ahead". His default setting over the next year and a bit will be to tinker with his side, irrespective of the previous week’s result.
"It is tempting to stick with the guys to give yourself the best chance of winning on Saturday," said the coach. "We’ll try a few things. After this game there’s only 16 games before the World Cup. When you get to New Zealand and Australia you don’t take chances. Argentina away, the same. Week by week we have to try new things. It won’t be major changes but one or two subtle changes."
He conceded that the result came as welcome relief.
"There is some breathing space, but we have to keep trying things. When you lose you tend to become a little narrow minded. You then tend to make conservative decisions. We don’t want to do that if we are going to win a World Cup next year."
He knows his team will have to deliver a performance with the same work rate and intensity if they are going to keep England at bay this Saturday in Bloemfontein.
He is expecting the second Test to be no less intense than the one that produced more than a point a minute at Ellis Park.
"If you look at the numbers it was really an intense, fast and open game. It had a number of line breaks and high-speed running for props and locks.
"I guess it will be even more intense because both teams are desperate. We would like to bury the Test series and they would like to keep it alive. We are playing at altitude again, although not as bad as Joburg. The higher the pace of the game, the more space there will be."
He is also expecting England to be smarter. The Boks partly misread them on defence last week. "Eddie [Jones] is sharp," Erasmus said of the England coach. "He’ll have a few things up his sleeve."
The coach said flyhalf Handré Pollard, who picked up a knock to his shoulder, should be ready to take his place in the team on Saturday. "He’ll be fine."
He also confirmed Tendai Mtawarira would be playing his 100th Test. Again reason to pop corks, set off fireworks and get hearts racing.
Erasmus may not be one for pomp and ceremony, but it is something he is finding difficult to avoid. Who knows, he may even allow himself a sip should the Boks clinch the series in the place he learnt his rugby.