Rassie lies fifth of seven … but there’s hope

2018-11-29 15:00
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It might be said, at least as far as the Springboks are traditionally concerned, that the last full calendar year ahead of a World Cup one tells you both a lot and nothing at all in yardstick terms.

The season involving RWC as its key focus tends to be a reasonably curtailed one in the lead-up, featuring fewer Tests than usual, so it is understandable that the fuller-roster, preceding year is leaned on quite heavily for pointers to how a specific team will fare at the loftiest event of them all.

The maiden season of Rassie Erasmus’s tenure has also been the one immediately ahead of RWC 2019 in Japan, and his 2018 win record of smack on 50 percent (seven victories, seven losses) demonstrates one reasonably obvious thing at this point: the Boks are not among the hottest of favourites for the Webb Ellis Cup.

A study of records of all the Bok coaching regimes in the full year preceding World Cup ones tells you that Erasmus places an unflattering fifth, among seven, for win percentages.

One of those coaches is more accurately a pairing, as Ian McIntosh and successor Kitch Christie both contributed to the 1994 calendar year before the never-to-be-forgotten RWC events of 1995.

Leader of the pack by some distance is Nick Mallett, whose record-setting Boks of 1998 won 11 of 12 Tests, giving him a stellar figure of 91.66 percent as his charges dispersed for a well-deserved summer break ahead of the World Cup-geared demands of the following year.

His side had won 11 on the trot in 1998 (don’t forget the head of steam they’d already built in late 1997) before finally succumbing in the very last assignment of ’98, losing 13-7 to England at Twickenham.

Next comes the never properly appreciated - at least that’s my un-budging view - Heyneke Meyer, who provided plenty of hope for a prosperous 2015 World Cup in the United Kingdom with a 2014 record of 69.23 percent – nine wins from 13 Test matches.

His only blemishes that year were the two away Tests against New Zealand and Australia, hardly the first time that has occurred for South Africa, and losses against Ireland and Wales on a four-game European tour that snapped his clean-sweep record on the equivalent treks of 2012 and 2013.

Both Peter de Villiers and the McIntosh/Christie combo also eclipsed incumbent Erasmus for performance levels in the calendar year preceding RWC ones.

“Div” had a 2010 year that featured eight triumphs in 14 Tests (57.14 percent): again the negative column was dominated by five of the six losses coming against either of the All Blacks or Australia alone.

Just behind him, McIntosh/Christie earned five wins from nine Tests in 1994, for a figure of 55.56 percent ahead of the massive demands of ’95.

The only two coaches to lie behind Erasmus in this particular statistical exercise are Rudolf Straeuli and Jake White.

Straeuli’s bumpy 2002, before the Aussie-staged World Cup year of 2003, saw him earn five wins and six reverses from 11 Tests (45.45 percent), hardly helped by a nightmare end-of-year tour where his charges came home 0/3, including that 53-3 headless-chicken embarrassment against England at Twickenham.

Bringing up the rear, then, is White who, in 2006, showed precious few signs of mounting a credible assault on RWC 2007 in France: he won only five of 12 Tests that year (41.66 percent).

Included in the loss column were two of three encounters with each of New Zealand and Australia (including the unpalatable 0-49 in Brisbane) and a 36-26 comeuppance from France at Newlands.

But if Erasmus looks on reasonably precarious ground right now - based strictly on 2018 win/loss showing - for his crack at World Cup 2019, it needs to be borne rather spiritedly in mind that wooden-spoonist White, who came within a whisker of the chop in the lead-up to RWC 2007, went on to mastermind South Africa’s second successful grabbing of the premier crown in rugby just a few months up the drag.

And would we all be in agreement that public sentiment around the current, slowly regrouping Springboks isn’t as bad as it was when they shut the books on 2006?

Here is the list of Bok records for performances in full last year preceding a World Cup one:

1994 (Ian McIntosh/Kitch Christie):

P9 W5 D1 L3 - win percentage 55.56.

World Cup the next year: Winners

1998 (Nick Mallett):

P12 W11 D0 L1 - win percentage 91.66

World Cup the next year: Losing semi-finalists, bronze medal

2002 (Rudolf Straeuli):

P11 W5 D0 L6 - win percentage 45.45

World Cup the next year: Losing quarter-finalists

2006 (Jake White):

P12 W5 D0 L7 - win percentage 41.66

World Cup the next year: Winners

2010 (Peter de Villiers):

P14 W8 D0 L6 - win percentage 57.14

World Cup the next year: Losing quarter-finalists

2014 (Heyneke Meyer):

P13 W9 D0 L4 - win percentage 69.23

World Cup the next year: Losing semi-finalists, bronze medal

2018 (Rassie Erasmus):

P14 W7 D0 L7 - win percentage 50.00

World Cup the next year: to be decided

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  rugby


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