JOHANNESBURG - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is many things, but delusional he is not. However, there is a growing feeling that he is slightly out of touch with the real problems that continue to haunt his team ahead of their Test against the All Blacks.
Erasmus remains optimistic that his Springbok team can bounce back after losing to the Wallabies in Brisbane. Erasmus’ optimism surely is misguided considering that his team have only won one game out of their three Rugby Championship Tests so far, haven’t won an away Test since Erasmus took over in June, suffered a humiliating record loss last year and haven’t won in New Zealand in almost a decade.
“The toughness is not so much in the daunting task of the All Blacks, it is exciting and nice. It was an exciting week for us despite the loss to Argentina, we wanted to come here and beat the Wallabies. I really thought, until the last minute, we could really win the game. It is much more pressure, we are playing the best team in the world and we’ve just had two losses in a row so the pressure is on us and let’s see how we can bounce back,” said Erasmus.
If the Springboks are to avoid being on the end of another record defeat in New Zealand, as was the case last year in their 57-0 drubbing in Albany, then they are going to have to quickly rectify their error riddled performance from Brisbane. Much of the Springboks' weakness came from self-inflicted mistakes from their inability to start well, handling errors and giving away points cheaply.
“I’m going to keep on repeating it. I’m the coach. If we give them an over throw five metres from the try-line and give them seven points within the first five minutes that’s 14 points then you are chasing the game and you lose by six. I have to look at myself and take the consequences. If you coach a team and give 14 points away, and there were many other things that went wrong, but to give 14 points away on a platter you are going to struggle to beat a team. If we don’t fix that we’ll throw away rugby games,” Erasmus said.
“I thought our mauling went well compared to last weekend. The scrums were good for the first half and then there was vital scrums at certain stages that we lost and line-outs were good at some stages. So it’s a mixed bag of mistakes at different times. Normally we do well in the second half but in this game we were awful in the second half and wonderful in the first half.”
There are many excuses to why the Springboks find themselves in such a vulnerable state and continue to drop into insignificance in world rugby but all will come down to how Erasmus responds in his team preparation, selection and plan in restoring dignity to his team and knocking the All Blacks off their perch.