Rassie Erasmus named his squad for the Springboks upcoming games and there were some suprises. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
When Nick Mallett was coaching the Springboks in the late 1990s he once joked that he did not need a technical analyst as he already had one - on the flank in his starting team.

We are talking about Rassie Erasmus, one of the great schemers in the game, a plotter and planner who has always been as comfortable behind a computer doing video analysis as he has been on the training field, either as a player or a coach.

In short, what we can expect this June is a Springbok team that is meticulously prepared, has a coherent game plan and each player will know precisely what is expected of him and what his specific role entails.

There will be no grey areas, no flyhalf and scrumhalf generals looking bewildered and bemused because they have scant idea of what they are supposed to be doing.

This is not to say that the Boks are going back to paint-by-numbers rugby and that flair and playing what is front of you will be strictly curtailed.

Erasmus is as innovative as he is tactically astute  have “disco lights” been used by any other coach anywhere in the world to communicate to players? - but in these first four games there is likely to be some conservatism before the Boks spread their wings more in the Rugby Championship.

Right now, the overwhelming priority for Erasmus is to establish a winning culture.

With that foundation in place, he will expand the team’s horizons. In the long run, Erasmus will cut the Springbok suit according to the cloth available to him and he will have been pleased to note that this season all of the South African Super Rugby franchises have been playing a more enterprising brand of rugby.

There has been a nationwide buy-in to the off-loading game that requires athleticism from both backs and forwards, a commitment to support play and better conditioning to underpin the aforementioned.

Erasmus is on record as saying that the Springbok style of play will evolve over time and that it will uniquely suit the skills of South Africa’s players.

In the short term, he has said that the Boks will initially have an “easy does it” approach.

It is perfectly understandable given that Erasmus has to turn the Springbok ship around 180 degrees after the depressing last two seasons that saw the Boks win just 11 of 25 Tests and sink to seventh on the World Rugby rankings.

Boosting morale and confidence in the players and thus getting them to play to their potential can only come from winning.

This time next week the Boks will have played Wales in Washington, a game that should go the way of the South Africans given that the Welsh will be severely depleted of star players and Erasmus will be taking the strongest possible squad available.

The England series is shaping up to be a highly physical arm wrestle give that both teams are desperate to revive their fortunes.

England are not used to losing under Eddie Jones and he has responded to the poor showing in the Six Nations by picking a squad that is big on power up front as he looks to get back to the brand that was so successful for him in his first year in charge of the Red Rose army  powerful forwards that are as adept at ball carrying as they are at bullying the set pieces.

There is no question that Erasmus will select a pack that can fight fire with fire.

There will also be huge focus on defence. Erasmus’s chief lieutenant Jacques Nienaber, who returned to South Africa with Erasmus after they had worked together at Munster, has been a big part of the alignment camps that the Bok coaches have conducted during Super Rugby.

The word “alignment” is typical of Erasmus and his thinking. No “training camps” for him. The alignment has been just that - making sure all the players across the franchises that could be involved with the Boks know what defensive pattern the Boks will have, amongst other things, and what the broader strategy is going to be in June.


Saturday, June 2: v Wales (RFK Stadium, Washington, 11pm SA time kick-off)

Saturday, June 9: v England (Ellis Park, Joburg, 5.05pm)

Saturday June 16: v England (Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, 5.05pm)

Saturday, June 23: v England (Newlands, Cape Town, 5.05pm)

Sunday Tribune

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