OPINION: Rassie's appointment shows his Bok passion is as strong as ever

rugby07 February 2024 06:25| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Rassie Erasmus’ return to the Springbok coaching position may not have been unexpected, but the gravity of keeping the double World Cup winning team at the top of the sport seems to have reignited his appetite to take the team further than the heights they have already reached.

It was no state secret since the announcement of Jacques Nienaber’s decision to move to Ireland and join Leo Cullen at Leinster that Erasmus was favoured to take up the Bok role once again.

But all the talk around then was of a sort of caretaker role until 2025, when his contract would run out. Then, the whispers went, he would hand over to a successor - possibly Mzwandile Stick or Deon Davids - and usher in a new challenge.

So the announcement that he had signed on until 2027 in itself raised a few eyebrows. Add to that the news earlier in the week that Erasmus would no longer serve as SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, meaning he could focus his attention solely on the role of Springbok coach again.

It is also no secret that coaching is where Rassie thrives, where his passion is and where he wants to make a difference.

And the fact that the Boks now solidly have a load of targets on their backs from other rugby nations (a fact that was there after 2019 but seems to have added resentment at the France 2023 success) could be a massive factor in fuelling these decisions.


Erasmus has already pinpointed the fact that, to stay at the top, the Boks will need changes. Their evolution along with Nienaber from the forward-based bomb squad fuelled World Cup winners in 2019 to the more complete 2023 version of the Boks was something to observe.

And in both World Cup cycles, the Boks were severely hampered by a lack of time. The fact that the Erasmus-Nienaber axis managed to come out on top in such circumstances was not only highly impressive, but a testament to the drive to get to the top.

Erasmus had only 18 months after taking the job from Allister Coetzee in 2018 to get the Boks ready for the World Cup, and while both he and Nienaber, who became Bok coach in 2020, were looking forward to a four year cycle where they had the British and Irish Lions tour to contend with, as well as a proper lead in to France 2023.

It is now a historical fact that Covid cost the Boks a full year of test rugby, and not only financially challenged SA Rugby but also stunted the natural development of players that would normally happen in such a cycle.

The Lions tour will always go down as a weird, unsatisfying tour without crowds that took up every bit of focus and the less said about the quarantine season that endured afterwards and all the problems that came along with it the better.

That is why, when Nienaber selected 18 rookies for a test in Bloemfontein against Wales, and lost it narrowly, there was a lot of criticism but looking back now the ends justifies the means.

And the manner in which the Boks transformed into a more complete unit, the incredible tries they scored and the confidence they played with showed a team at peace with itself and comfortable in its tasks.


But now the tasks change. It is natural that there are new players to come through the ranks, new talent that needs to be nurtured, taken to the grinder of test rugby and turned into test stars.

The core group of Springbok players - including captain Siya Kolisi - are aging and many may not make another World Cup cycle. While most should still be around in one way or another, the changing of the guard will be a key aspect that determines how successful the Boks can be over the next four years.

Erasmus has never been scared to innovate. The 7-1 split and the shrieks and howls of anger from traditional rugby pundits have made him the pantomime villain for many in World Rugby, and the Boks’ success has only deepened that.

So to stay ahead of the pack the Boks will need to innovate more, transform more, and find new ways of staying ahead of a pack that will be studying their every move.

The appointment of Tony Brown as backline coach and Jaco Peyper as Laws advisor has shown the intent. Erasmus now has a laws expert on hand to test out any new theory before it hits the ground running.


The basics of Bok rugby will always stay the same. A strong setpiece, physicality and a good kicking game. What the Boks need now is to find ways of keeping them ahead of the chasing pack.

A good start would be something no Springbok rugby team has ever properly achieved, but what the All Blacks have done almost with ease at times - being the best side in the world between World Cups.

While many will quickly point out the Webb Ellis trophy is the perfect counter argument to that, and the top two teams in World Rugby in the last cycle didn’t make it past the quarterfinals, there is a desire that the Boks are not only seen as tournament masters, but as a complete side that can dominate World Rugby.

The challenge will not get easier. Ireland have already laid a marker in the Six Nations and two tests against them and another two home games against the All Blacks make for a fascinating home test season in 2024.

But if there is one coach that can surprise and get the best out of the Boks, it is Rassie.

Even if it is true that this cycle may be harder than the others combined.