Home Sport WATCH: Springboks must see what works before World Cup, says Rassie Erasmus

WATCH: Springboks must see what works before World Cup, says Rassie Erasmus

WATCH: Springboks must see what works before World Cup, says Rassie Erasmus

Cape Town — Since Jacques Nienaber took over as the Springbok head coach, they have a 60.8% win record, with 14 victories and nine defeats in 23 Tests in 2021 and 2022.

In 2018, with Rassie Erasmus in charge, South Africa had a 50% record, with seven wins and seven losses in 14 Tests – and then famously went on to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

In 2006, Jake White was nearly fired after the Boks won just five out of 12 Tests, but again SA clinched the Webb Ellis Cup a year later in France.

So just how much does beating Les Bleus in Marseille on Saturday night (10pm SA time kick-off) matter in the greater scheme of things?

“I think it’s a good question. I think when you compare where teams are in their seasons, it’s always sometimes a benefit for us to have incoming tours, where we are match-fit and ready to go. And then the Rugby Championship is at a different time,” South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, said on Friday.

“For the year-end tour, for example, we plan our detail in how our guys get back into the team – it can be injury, or it can be resting them for a certain period.

“And then something small can happen, which is nobody’s fault, where it was Ulster and Glasgow who withdrew (from United Rugby Championship matches) the week before we went into camp. So we lost 80 minutes into Eben (Etzebeth) there, we lost 80 minutes into Siya (Kolisi) in that specific game, and a couple of guys…

“So then it makes your – normally, in my experience – your first game on tour a little bit… not 100% sure how all the guys will click, because they haven’t really played the previous weekend when we thought they would play.

“But, look, Ireland really peaked at the right times. I think in 2018, they were actually also ranked No 2, and we were really nervous going into that World Cup. Then they had a tough pool to get out of.

“We might have played them in the quarter-finals, so we fully understand that anything can happen the year just before a World Cup.

“The things that we’re trying to do, on and off the field, certainly has relevance in the next year – but it’s not the determining factor. There’s relevance, but it’s not the determining factor of how things will pan out in a World Cup year itself.”

The reality, though, is that there is an enormous expectation from Bok fans – and rightly so – that their heroes in green and gold win every single Test. They are the ones who spend thousands of rands (and euros and pounds in Europe) to attend these big games… not to mention their DStv subscriptions and supporters’ jerseys.

It’s about bragging rights on social media platforms and, of course, rugby in South Africa also has a significant history of nation-building that cannot be ignored.

It’s a double-edged sword, though, as the coaches and players also need some leeway to try out different selections and strategies – such as Cheslin Kolbe doing the goal-kicking – while injuries and loss of form contribute to possible sub-par performances as well.

And there will certainly be questions asked about the Boks’ readiness to defend their World Cup title in France next year if they lose in Marseille on Saturday night.

“We know the supporters, and I don’t want to say it – that the supporters and you as the media… we have the #StrongerTogether theme always. We never go away from winning,” Erasmus said.

“We always try to, when we do experiment and testing things with game-plans or combinations, or kickers… If you look at our system currently, where if we get into a position next year where there’s three flyhalves out, we would’ve been in this position and tested this in a very tense environment in an end-of-year tour – away from home against the No 1 in the world, and No 2 in the world.

“And we are playing Italy, who beat Wales.

“So a lot of the things that look bad now is just… people don’t want to hear that you learned from that, but you get answers from that.

“Some things you see are a total flop, and you don’t want that come September next year in the World Cup.

“We never go out to lose – always go out to win. But sometimes you see that works or that doesn’t work, and sometimes that’s really valuable come the World Cup next year.”

Captain Siya Kolisi added: “Playing against France on their home patch a year before the World Cup is good for us all, because everyone will get a taste of what it will be like next year.

“It’s going to be a massive game with the fourth-ranked team playing against the second-ranked team in the world, and as the Springboks we want to win every game and make the country proud. We may have lost last week’s Test and the SA A game, but there is pressure every week, and we need to adapt to it.”

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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