A tough and chal­leng­ing job awaits Eras­mus

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

IF, AS is widely ex­pected, new Saru di­rec­tor of rugby, Rassie Eras­mus, takes over from the now de­parted Al­lis­ter Coet­zee as Spring­bok coach, a tough and chal­leng­ing job awaits. He will do well to tick the fol­low­ing boxes to ease ques­tions around a pos­si­ble turn­around strat­egy.

Over­seas play­ers

Will the 30-Test rule, which al­lows only those play­ers who’ve played in 30 Tests to come into con­sid­er­a­tion for the na­tional side, still ap­ply un­der Eras­mus? It was brought in to help stop younger play­ers from mov­ing abroad, but it has done lit­tle to halt the mi­gra­tion. It is a pro­fes­sional era and one won­ders if South African rugby isn’t do­ing more harm to its big­gest brand, the Boks, by stop­ping the coach from pick­ing who­ever he wants. The best play­ers, re­gard­less of where they play, should run out for the Boks. It is known Eras­mus is keen to pick a few over­seas-based men to give the Boks a greater edge and here one thinks of Faf de Klerk, Vin­cent Koch and maybe even Ruan Ack­er­mann, who all play abroad but haven’t hit the 30-Test mark.

Cap­taincy

Ev­ery coach has his favourites, and when it comes to the man tasked to lead the side it is im­per­a­tive that the coach and he gel and work closely to­gether. Un­der Coet­zee, Adri­aan Strauss led the team in 2016, then War­ren White­ley took over last year, only to be side­lined with in­jury, al­low­ing Eben Etze­beth to lead the way.

But why no Siya Kolisi? He was the nat­u­ral choice after his ter­rific job for the Storm­ers but will his time come un­der the new coach?

As­sis­tants

Coet­zee is no longer in­volved, and so too, line-out and for­wards coach Jo­hann van Graan, who left the Boks half­way through last Novem­ber’s tour of Europe. But what of Matt Proud­foot, Coet­zee’s only cho­sen helper, and the man who spe­cialises in scrum work? He looks set to be re­placed by Pi­eter de Vil­liers, the for­mer France in­ter­na­tional and scrum guru. And then there’s Franco Smith, the most re­cent back-line coach, who was ap­par­ently told to move from Bloem­fontein to the Cape if he wanted to keep his job. He is not ex­pected to do so, pre­fer­ring to re­main the Chee­tahs’ di­rec­tor of rugby. Mzwandile Stick, chopped from the team after 2016, looks set to re­turn, along with de­fence spe­cial­ist Jacques Nien­aber.

Style

Eras­mus , even though still only in the role of di­rec­tor of rugby, has ap­par­ently been work­ing hard be­hind the scenes to put plans in place for the visit by Ed­die Jones’ Eng­land in June, the first se­ries the Boks will play un­der new man­age­ment. But just what type of game the Boks will dish up un­der Eras­mus is any­one’s guess at this stage. Tech­ni­cally, Eras­mus is bril­liant, but will the plans and styles he put in place while serv­ing at the Chee­tahs and West­ern Prov­ince (and the Storm­ers), and most re­cently Mun­ster, work at in­ter­na­tional level?

Fronting up

In his play­ing days Eras­mus cap­tained the Boks on just one oc­ca­sion. It is said he was re­luc­tant to lead the team on more oc­ca­sions be­cause of the pres­sures in­volved and he didn’t like fronting up to the me­dia. He also pre­ferred a be­hind-the-scenes role in his coach­ing days in Cape Town, and even pre­vi­ously at Saru, but if he is to be Bok coach he will have to step for­ward. It is widely agreed that be­ing the Bok boss is the tough­est sports job in the world, and who­ever’s in charge will have to be one mighty tough man.

Rassie Eras­mus

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