JOHANNESBURG - Former Springbok captain Rassie Erasmus has become the 14th national head coach since 1992, taking over from Allister Coetzee. He was at long last unveiled on Thursday and will be in charge for the next six seasons, up until the 2023 World Cup.
He lifted the curtain on his views on a number of topics after the announcement...
How are you going to juggle the dual role of director of rugby and Bok coach?
I’m going to stay on in both roles until 2023 ... I did the director of rugby job before going to Munster (2016), except the Bok job, which now gets added. So I’ve overseen the SA ‘A’ team, the juniors, schools rugby, Sevens, women’s rugby ... and now the Boks are a part of it as well. There’s definitely a lot of responsibility but it’s something I know I can do. I will probably spend 70 percent of the time on the Boks and planning around them (for 14 Tests a year).
How have you been planning for the year ahead?
Well, my assistant coaches (Jacques Nienaber, Pieter de Villiers and Mzwandile Stick) have already visited the Super Rugby franchises and spoken to the coaches and the players. What we’re trying to do is open up a channel where we are part of their management team, and they allowing us in means we can share ideas, have technical talks ... at this stage it’s an open door policy; it’s up to them how much access we’re allowed, but it’s a great move. It’s a two-way street, of mainly sharing ideas, but we’re not dictating to the coaches what to do.
Do you have an idea of what team you’ll play in June?
We’ve only had two Super Rugby rounds so far, but having been in Europe and coached there I definitely have a different outlook on our players. I think we undervalue a lot of them, we sometimes only see the problems, but we have wonderful players and sometimes take too long to select some players. The regular names will pop up always ... Etzebeth, Kolisi, Whiteley and so on ... but it’s early days. We’ve got a lot of good leaders, too, but nothing is clear right now.
Why’ve you brought back Mzwandile Stick?
I know him well. It was my idea a few years ago to get him into the Bok set-up. He has certain skills from being the Sevens captain, he was player of the year, as the team captain, he coached at U-19s, in the Vodacom Cup ... as Boks assistant. He brings a specific skills set; which is not as a backline coach or even attack coach ... I’ll use him for a more specific role, aligned to Sevens - what happens off the ball, the work rate required at this level ... he’ll bring massive value to the team.
How are you going to manage a trip to the United States and face England a week later in June?
I know it looks like suicide, but having an extra Test match is an extra game to prepare. Yes, we’re going to have to juggle a bit and be creative, knowing we’re playing England at altitude a week later, but our plans are in place. It’ll be foolish to think we’re going to go to the USA with one squad and use the same squad a week later. We might use the replacements in one match and change things the next week, and we’re going to have to test some players somewhere, too, with a view on next year, so that might be a chance to do so.
How will your performance be measured, you’re in for six years?
The bottom line is the KPIs are there and it’s all about winning. If you win you’ll stay in job, if not, you’ll move out; it’s always been like that. If the results aren’t there I won’t be there in six years’ time.
Will we win the 2019 World Cup?
I think we can, we’ve got the players and the coaches, but it depends how quickly we can all align ourselves ... players, coaches, etc. If we can do that, then we’ve got a big, big chance.
What is your assessment of Boks right now?
Our ranking tells the story, sixth. It’s in our hands now. I know the players on the ground know we can get back to number one or two in the world quickly. We’ve got the players and the personnel, but it’s about aligning everyone. I can mention attack or defence (as areas that need attention) ... but aerially we’ve struggled, and the opposition have come at us. We (the Springboks) and the franchises must also be adaptable, learn from each other ... talk to each other about areas of the game, players.
What are your thoughts on some young players, like Aphiwe Dyantyi?
I want to break the mould and talk about him, rather than say ‘we’re not going to talk about individuals’. I’m excited about him (Dyantyi), I’d be stupid to not say he’s good.