Rassie will hope Etzebeth case doesn’t become yet another World Cup distraction
Knowing Rassie Erasmus, he would have wished that he could’ve kept the Springboks for another week in Bloemfontein.
The quite central city of South Africa was where the Boks were housed for a pre-World Cup training camp last week.
Erasmus, who played and coached the Cheetahs for many years, joked that he took the national team there because there is only one newspaper in Bloemfontein!
The studious former loose forward would’ve gone through every eventuality with his players about what would be required to win the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan.
But then the camp ended on Thursday, and the players had some downtime before getting together on Sunday in Johannesburg again ahead of the squad announcement on Monday.
Of course, we all know where Eben Etzebeth decided to spend his weekend – in the picturesque West Coast town of Langebaan, one of his favourite haunts.
What really went down at Die Watergat pub on Saturday night will only be truly known by those involved, but it came at the worst possible time for the Boks.
There seemed to be a feel-good sentiment around the team, fuelled by the Rugby Championship triumph.
Even the fact that Erasmus missed Saru’s transformation target of 50 percent black representation in the World Cup squad – which the man himself said was one of his main KPIs – was largely overlooked.
Not even Aphiwe Dyantyi’s positive dope test appeared to have a massive impact on the average Bok fan’s psyche.
Erasmus tried to downplay the situation somewhat by saying that Dyantyi wouldn’t have been picked anyway as he hasn’t played much rugby this year to an ongoing hamstring injury.
But by Friday afternoon, Erasmus sounded like he had had enough. In a press release on the Bok airport send-off, the coach stated: “It has been a busy week, and a tiring one at times, to be honest.”
The focus had gone off the actual rugby. Hours of sponsor and media engagements all week, the squad announcement and the public send-off were just the scheduled obligations that the team had to fulfil.
Then Dyantyi’s B sample was revealed as also being positive on Friday, while the Etzebeth saga has escalated into something more serious by the day.
“To have so many people behind us, really gives the boys a lift. But, I’ll be honest, the expectations make me nervous. But this is our job, and when we are in Japan, we’ll be focused on the main thing, the rugby,” Erasmus said.
Ah, the rugby. The Boks have a chance to get revenge for the 2015 World Cup result against Japan on Kumagaya next Friday, 6 September (12.05pm kickoff, live on SuperSport).
Erasmus will be delighted that his boys will be able to zone in getting ready for a Test match.
But the problem for the Bok boss is that Etzebeth’s case is still being investigated by the police, while the big man had to visit the Human Rights Commission to respond to a complaint about the Langebaan incident.
Erasmus will hope that the Etzebeth matter doesn’t become another World Cup distraction before the big one against the All Blacks in Yokohama on 21 September…
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