CAPE TOWN, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Rassie Erasmus’ reputation as a methodical coach with an eye on innovation is well-founded as he leads a resurgence in fortunes for South Africa that has elevated them to among the favourites to lift the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Erasmus is Director of Rugby for the Boks and has a contract up to 2023, though he has hinted he will bring in a head coach to work under him after the World Cup.
What is obvious is the impressive influence he has had on the current side, taking over a Bok team at arguably their lowest ebb at the end of 2017 and guiding them to the Rugby Championship title within a little more than a year.
“My job is to coach well and the players’ job is to play well. We do have the talent and we have worked really hard,” Erasmus told Reuters in an exclusive interview.
“That is ultimately what we will be judged on. If we are lucky and we don’t get a lot of injuries, we should go deep in the tournament. And then it could be a referee’s decision, a bounce of a ball or a missed tackle.”
He is very much a man with a plan, lays out in minute detail his process to the players and is not afraid to take risks on and off the field.
He caught the eye for his innovation while coaching the Free State Cheetahs in the domestic Currie Cup competition, when he would sit on the roof of the 46,000-seater Free State Stadium and use coloured lights and cards to send messages to players on the field.
It is a sign of his ability to think beyond the conventional, and Erasmus says he is pleased with the preparation of the side for the World Cup, believing he has been as meticulous as he could be in getting the team ready for the tournament.
“All the preparation we have done so far has put us in a good position, we can’t look at any excuses that we had hiccups in preparation, bad injuries or logistical challenges, so if things don’t go our way, we can only point fingers at ourselves.”
Erasmus, 46, won 36 Test caps as a loose-forward for the Boks between 1997 and 2001 and was part of the South Africa side that finished third at the 1999 World Cup under coach Nick Mallett.
The Boks open their campaign against New Zealand in Yokohama on Sept. 21 and will also play Italy, Namibia and Canada in their Pool B.
Editing by Neil Robinson