Rassie and Boks chase evolution in order to stay ahead

rugby12 March 2024 08:58| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Rassie Erasmus © Gallo Images

The Springboks have gone where only one team has gone before by defending the Rugby World Cup trophy they won in 2019 in France four years later, but coach Rassie Erasmus knows that continued evolution of their game is necessary in order to remain top.

Erasmus introduced his new coaching team to the media in Cape Town on Tuesday, and it wasn’t surprising that he explained the appointment of Tony Brown as his backline coach and new defence coach Jerry Flannery around the need to have fresh voices and new ideas introduced. Former All Black Brown has coached the Highlanders in New Zealand and Japan, while Flannery is a former Ireland international who worked with Erasmus at Munster.

“Tony and Jerry bring a fresh perspective from different rugby environments and it’s lekker to hear new voices on how we’ve been doing things and how we might do them in the future,” said Erasmus.

“As we said before last year’s World Cup in France, there was no way that we would be successful if we kept doing things in the same way. We need to evolve our game once more, as teams will definitely have looked at how we play, and how they think they can stop us.”


With there always being the threat of evolution when it comes to application and interpretation of rugby union’s myriad laws, and continued hints from overseas that there may be law changes that even if intentional or not could negate South Africa’s traditional strengths, Erasmus’ decision to bring in former top referee Jaco Peyper to his management makes a lot of sense.

“We’ve also had a close look at how we need to develop as a team and what the coaching and management groups need to look like to support the players,” said the Bok coach, who will from this year reassume the role of Bok head coach now that Jacques Nienaber, who was coach for the past four years to free him to fulfil other aspects of the director of rugby role, has joined Leinster.

“We wanted to bring in Nigel Owens last year as a laws adviser, but we’ve been able to do that with Jaco now that he has retired from active refereeing. The way the laws are interpreted and blown is always evolving and we need expert insight so we can always stay on the right side of the laws.”

Also new on the block in an official capacity is Paddy Sullivan, who worked with the team as a consultant in last year’s RWC. Sullivan has been a performance analyst for French Top 14 team Montpellier for the last few seasons.

“We’ve reviewed what it takes to be at the cutting edge of the game and we’ve repurposed the management structure to put as much resource as we can into the technical side of the game,” said Erasmus.

“The players will continue to get the necessary off-field support, but we wanted to make sure that we had the right roles filled to make sure that the main thing (playing rugby in a winning way) stays the main thing.”


The newcomers had their first taste of being part of the Bok environment at last week’s alignment camp and both Brown and Flannery appeared to enjoy the experience of being part of the World Cup champion group.

“It was exciting to meet the other coaches and the players at the alignment camp last week, and to map out the plans for the season, so I’m really looking forward to this journey,” said Brown, who is regarded as one of the best if not the best attack coaches around.

“There are immensely talented players in the country and my goal is to ensure that we can continue to bring the best out of them on the field.”

The Boks began a shift towards a more attacking game when they started to run back kick receipt against France in Marseille on the 2022 November tour, but it is clear where they can still improve and what Brown can bring - structured attack from the possession won, rather than the better attacking moments coming from counter-attack and transition.

While there is a clear vision of where Brown can improve the Boks, it is less clear when it comes to defence, where Neinaber was arguably the best in his particular field outside of maybe Shaun Edwards. However, Flannery brings a lot of experience to his designation, and unlike Brown, he has had previous experience of being with the Boks.

“I had the luxury of experiencing the environment for a short time during a training camp last season, and that gave me a taste of what to look forward to for the next few years,” said the former Ireland hooker.

“Our first alignment camp went very well, and it was pleasing to see how well the coaches worked together and how receptive the players were to our way of doing things, and hopefully I can make a solid contribution as we look to build on what the team has achieved in the last few seasons.”


Springbok Management:

Rassie Erasmus: Head Coach

Charles Wessels: Team Manager

Mzwandile Stick: Assistant Coach

Daan Human: Assistant Coach

Deon Davids: Assistant Coach

Tony Brown: Assistant Coach

Jerry Flannery: Assistant Coach

Andy Edwards: Head of Athletic Performance

Sebastian Prim: Sport Scientist

Paddy Sullivan: Performance Analyst

Lindsay Weyer: Technical Analyst

Jaco Peyper: Laws and Discipline Advisor

Dr Jerome Lehlogonolo Mampane: Team Doctor

Dr Aneurin Robyn: Physiotherapist

Rene Naylor: Physiotherapist

JJ Fredericks: Logistics Manager

Zintsika Tashe: Operations Manager

Zeena Isaacs van Tonder: Media Manager