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

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus admitted to falling short of his 45% transformation target in 2018‚ but even so‚ is not daunted about reaching the 50% mark this season.

Erasmus was certainly the most progressive Bok coach of the modern era‚ by choosing 20 black players out of the 50 he used in Tests in 2018.

The transformation criteria though‚ are not that straightforward because it is a percentage weighted over the full year and not a target for every game. Even so‚ Erasmus fell just short despite doing far more than all of his predecessors. But he did make Siya Kolisi the first black Springbok Test captain‚ a remarkable statement of intent regarding transformation.

The target is higher in 2019 and being a World Cup year‚ the pressure on the coach and team is also higher. It’s something Erasmus is embracing.

“It’s so nice that we can speak about transformation openly without talking around it‚” he said.

“Last year I thought we did better in transformation and I think there were some clear things that we did well in terms of giving new guys opportunities. There were so many positives‚ but we still didn’t achieve the target of 45%.”

The landscape changes once more in 2019.

“Obviously it’s 50% this year. We have to be clear about that. Fifty percent is an average of players playing over the year in terms of the match-day 23. Selecting a World Cup squad of 31 is not to say that 15-and-a-half must be players of colour.

“It’s an average of players in your match-day 23 of the year’s Test matches. I really believe that with the exposure we’ve given to players last year we will be able to get to that. I don’t think people must expect us to pick 16 or 15 players of colour out of the 31. We might pick 12, 13 or 17 depending on form‚ but it’s the average of match-day 23s over the Test matches in the year.”

Erasmus admitted that his cause would be helped by provincial unions continuing to give opportunities to black talent‚ to widen the pool the national team could select from.

Injuries and loss of form are realities any coach faces and when trying to reach a 50% transformation target‚ Erasmus cannot afford to have key black players unavailable.

“That’s why sometimes [in 2018] we experimented at Test match level with some players in certain positions‚” he said. That’s why we blooded some guys slower than others‚ knowing that this year we would need a bigger pool to pick from. We might‚ if we have a few injuries‚ have a challenge but I think that with the pool of players we have, we can reach that target.”

Erasmus revealed how he and his management have been working closely with the Super Rugby franchises‚ in particular‚ to ensure that key players are given the best chances of making it to the World Cup in the best possible condition.

“It [the plan with the players] includes game time‚ regeneration weeks‚ booster weeks‚ how many weeks a player must rest‚ what are the workouts in the week — is it speed or endurance? “We have spoken about every single player possibly on the radar and at this stage everybody has worked with us.”