It's rather refreshing that Erasmus tells it like it is
Opinion / 14 February 2020, 08:30am / Mark Keohane
CAPE TOWN – It really has been the Siya Kolisi show since the Springboks won the World Cup, but the mastermind behind the triumph, coach and director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, has hardly been seen, let alone heard.
That was until last week when it was reported he was going to take up the role of England’s new rugby boss at the end of 2021. Erasmus, one of the great thinkers of the game and the most sought-after brain in world rugby, finally opened a social media account on Twitter.
His response was to publish a two-minute video of his pre-World Cup final address to the Springboks. He asked the rugby world one question with the post and it was “What would he say to any other rugby nation after this?”
Erasmus was the first Springbok coach/director of rugby who broke the shackles of transformation. He picked black players because they were the best. He picked Kolisi as his captain because he believed he was his starting flanker and the best player to lead the team.
There was nothing political about his decision-making. He didn’t select black players to appease liberals, politicians or to piss off conservatives who haven’t move beyond 1940.
Whatever Erasmus did was motivated by what was in his heart.
I have known Erasmus for 25 years, written about him as a player, worked with him as part of the Boks management, written about him as a coach and I also had the privilege of writing about his success story in winning the World Cup.
I found his response the stuff of a pioneer when it comes to rugby coaches using social media to inspire, educate and inform with accuracy and authenticity.
It was a golden moment, the equal of anything he has done since taking over South African rugby because he gave the South African and world audience a behind-the-scenes snapshot of the remarkable culture he has built within the Springboks. He didn’t leave anything for interpretation, for editing or for an agenda-based third party to report on. He did it himself.
The clips he used were his speech to the team and two short videos in which he details the four stages of being a Springbok, which, according to him, starts with desperation for being a Bok and ends with entitlement because of being a Bok.
In the most candid of presentations he talks about his own entitlement when a Bok player, what a “dick” he became, how entitled he felt and what a virus he had become in the squad, which led to the then Springbok coach and businessman Harry Viljoen dropping him.
Erasmus told the players the culture within the squad would not accommodate players who acted with entitlement and as “dicks”. He implored players to take ownership of not becoming that “dick” of a player and also letting a teammate know if they had gone down that path.
It provided such insight to what was built within the Springboks over the past two seasons.
Amazingly, there were some who objected to Erasmus’s videos as showing too much, apparently because it crushed the mystique of whatever fantasy people hang on to about what goes on behind closed doors in the Springboks’ camp.
One objection was published on SuperSport, a partner of SA Rugby and the biggest broadcast investor in South African rugby.
Clearly they were annoyed they didn’t publish the vidoes, but the argument Erasmus had showed too much belonged in another era.
Erasmus showed transparency and the truth behind his Springboks. If every coach did this, there would be less speculation, less perception paraded as fact and less dishonesty. There would be trust and there would be terrific viewing.
Long may his Twitter account last and long may we be privileged to his insights, thoughts and behind-the-scenes videos of the team we like to call the people’s team.