Rassie's balancing act between now and 2019

2018-06-25 08:24
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo)

Cape Town - During Saturday's post-match press conference at Newlands, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus seemed shocked to hear that England boss Eddie Jones had referred to South Africa as genuine title contenders at next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

The Boks had just dished up their worst performance of the series, falling 25-10 to England in horrible conditions while still emerging as 2-1 winners over the three Tests. 

There is no doubt that the Boks look in far better shape than they ever did under Allister Coetzee. 

In the first two Tests they demonstrated an ability to play attacking and dangerous running rugby while their traditional strengths, like the rolling maul and a set piece, have also functioned well. 

The real test of how much this team has improved will come in this year's Rugby Championship, but the signs are positive. 

The Boks have now slipped to sixth in the world rankings, so calling them genuine title challengers in Japan may seem a little premature, but Erasmus ultimately agreed with Jones and believes that the Boks have what it takes to win the tournament for the third time. 

There are, though, many things at play and Erasmus must balance them all at the same time to ensure that he takes the best possible team in the best possible shape to Japan. 

He opened up on some of those challenges on Saturday, and his first issue was the amount of rugby some of the Boks are having to play currently. 

Siya Kolisi, for example, is crying out for a rest having been ever-present for the Stormers and Boks in 2018. 

On the surface, now would be the perfect time to give Kolisi a rest, with the Stormers effectively out of Super Rugby playoff contention. 

But, as the captain of the franchise, Kolisi might find himself on the plane to Argentina for a date with the Jaguares this weekend when the Stormers squad is released on Monday afternoon. 

There are a host of others in the same boat. 

Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Tenda Mtawarira, RG Snyman ... they could all use a rest. 

Erasmus must also use the matches remaining between now and 2019 to ensure that he takes a transformed squad to Japan. 

The instruction from government is that the World Cup squad must be made up of 50% players of colour, and Erasmus has been open on his desire to meet that target. 

"There are so many things we’re balancing at this stage trying to build towards the World Cup," Erasmus said on Saturday. 

"I really think we can win the World Cup.

"England can also win the World Cup. They won 23 out of 25 games and now they beat us at Newlands. I think every single team has a chance next year."

Erasmus agreed that there was no shortage of talent in South African rugby, but he acknowledged that there was still a long way to go. 

"We got it right for two Test matches," he said.

"We were terrible today, in my opinion, but with the things that we tried and the lessons that we learnt … I think if we can get it all right quickly, I think we’re in with a chance.

"We’ve got the talent, but we’ll have to manage our players.

There are a lot of things we have to balance so that when we hit next year September we have a fresh, experienced team with a lot of confidence."

Erasmus is hoping that he will have the powerhouse trio of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley available for the Rugby Championship in August.  

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  cape town  |  rugby


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