Rassie Erasmus is still winning the hearts of South African rugby fans. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
DURBAN  When Rassie Erasmus was elected to the top of the Springbok management, many saw it as a step in the right direction, but were still holding out before dolling him up with praise.

Then came his election of Siya Kolisi as captain, and then came a series victory over England. The new Springbok coach has managed to do a lot right in his short, four-game tenure so far; from performances on the field, as well as off, the positivity he has imbued back into the Bok jersey, and the tangible plan he has going forward.

However, all this feel good positivity is bound to be tested in his next big outing  the Rugby Championship. There is no taking away from the Springboks what they did against England, especially in the first two Tests in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. They not only beat the English, but did so by coming back from being behind.

However, these come from behind victories cannot become the Boks’ bread and butter as sterner opposition will not allow them such luxury. In the Rugby Championship, Los Pumas are renowned as a passionate side that get much harder to beat once their tails are up; where England got complacent, the Pumas will get fired up.

The Australians are also a side that like to get things going early on. They are a skilful team which thrives on confidence, and if they had been offered early leads such as the June break for the Boks, they would not have hesitated to put the hammer down and finish the job.

Then of course, there is the All Blacks, and if one team is famous for come from behind victories, it is the New Zealanders. They however, do not let it happen the other way round.

Erasmus and his Boks will not only have to be better than they were against England when they face the Rugby Championship sides, they will also have to do so without a few key men.

Overseas influence

It has already been confirmed that one of the stand outs of the June Tests, Duane Vermeulen, will not take any part in the Rugby Championship as he takes a stint in Japan all the while still trying to find a permanent club, be it in South Africa or abroad.

And there may be other issues for foreign-based Boks, such as Faf de Klerk and WIllie le Roux, as the Rugby Championship falls outside of the recognised international window.

This means that clubs, like Sale and Wasps, as well as other Japanese clubs, are not obliged to release the Springboks for international duty, but rather are asked nicely if they will let them go.

Losing a barnstorming No8 like Vermeulen will be tough, but also lose a scrumhalf like De Klerk who is miles ahead of his competition in the national squad, and an attacking magician at fullback like Le Roux, and the Boks are without a lot of their spine.

End of season blues

Erasmus may also see a slightly flatter squad when he reconvenes after a brutal Super Rugby season. The English were at the end of their year for rugby, and were clearly a little weary.

For the South Africans, their Super Rugby season will be over  a marathon stint since February. Additionally, a couple of trips to the far eastern and western reaches of the globe will also take its toll on Rassie’s squad, so his man management will have to be spot on. This is not something that is very easy in a new tenure, as the coach has not had the time to push his trust much further than a match-day 23.

The Boks are on cloud nine right now, but we have seen even in the past two years where Allister Coetzee managed series' wins in June, all that can come crashing down in the course of one tournament. Erasmus will have to box clever, not only picking up results, but also continuing to impress his fans and critics alike.


Sunday Tribune

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