New Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has a lot of work ahead of him to get the Boks to where they should be. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Former Springbok captain Rassie Erasmus became South Africa’s latest head coach this week, taking over from Allister Coetzee, who had a disastrous two years in charge.

Erasmus, signed a six-year deal that will take him to the 2023 World Cup, but he knows if results don’t go his way he’ll also be on his bike.

Before we can start thinking about the next World Cup, in 2019, Erasmus needs to get a few things right first.

Pick form players

We’re only three rounds into the new Super Rugby season so it’s way too early to be talking individuals here, but Erasmus will do himself a lot of good if he backs plenty of form men for the Wales Test in the USA and the England series.

Players who’re on top of their game will bring confidence into the team, and that’s one element which will be crucial in helping turn around the team's fortunes, after the past two years.

Picking players on past feats and reputation will no longer cut it, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

The Boks need a team of hungry, in-form men, who’re brimming with confidence, rather than a group who may be carrying baggage.

And the great news is there are more than enough quality players, rookie and veteran, black and white, to make the Boks a winning side.

Play attractive rugby

It’s time the Boks backed up the talk of playing attractive, ball-in-hand rugby, which leaves fans wanting more and more.

Too many coaches have come into the job and talked a good game just to return to a conservative style when the chips are down.

The reality is the Boks now need to progress and start playing a winning brand of rugby that includes scoring tries, because they’re not going to win more than they lose if they don’t evolve.

This doesn’t mean they must give up their powerful forward game, but to match the grunt and physicality up front with flair, pace and skill at the back.

It’s also no good picking players who play a certain way in Super Rugby and then expecting them to play a different way for the Boks.

Beat the All Blacks

Who can even remember when last the Boks beat the All Blacks?

It feels like a lifetime ago... mainly because of the hidings dished out since that day - October 2014, when Pat Lambie knocked over an 80th minute penalty from halfway to help the Boks to a 27-25 win.

In between the Boks have suffered some heavy defeats and while they came close at Newlands last year, losing 24-25, it is time the Boks beat the All Blacks on SA soil again.

Scarily, the Boks, since 1992, have managed to beat their old enemy on only 11 occasions in 29 matches on home soil.

That’s just not good enough, not for a team that likes to think of itself as one of the best in the world and a real challenger to the New Zealanders’ rugby supremacy.

Find a Number nine

In a country which produces so much talent each year, it is quite astonishing that not since Fourie du Preez’s days have the Boks had a No 9 that is world class.

And it is time Erasmus rectifies this as a matter of urgency. If the Boks are going to challenge the big boys of world rugby they need a scrumhalf who can dictate games and lead the way for the backs.

Several men have come and gone since Du Preez hung up his studs; some have been decent, others okay, and others still pretty average.

Erasmus and his coaching team need to identify a few scrumhalves, keep them in the system and get them up to standard... and there are enough men going around who have the ability to be excellent Test players.

There is, of course, also an opportunity for someone to grab this opening.

A bench with impact

Over the last number of years there have been match-day squads where the bench sitters have been pretty decent and actually come onto the field and made an impact, but those occasions have been few and far between.

It’s no good having like-for-like men in the back-up spots on the bench... the replacements must have something special and different to offer from the starters and if that means Player X is a bench-sitter for 50 Tests, but changes games through his impact, then so be it.

Test match rugby is no longer only about the starting men, but all 23 in the squad, and Erasmus must find the right blend to ensure the Boks stay a force for the full 80 minutes, and even become more lethal the longer the game goes on.

It’s time the Boks kept the opposition guessing, and on their toes.

Sunday Independent

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