June 18, 2018 / 2:00 PM / a month ago

Erasmus praises predecessor for improved Bok skills

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Rassie Erasmus praised his much-maligned predecessor Allister Coetzee on Monday for the improved skills of the South African side that have seen them clinch a three-match home series against England with a game to spare.

Rugby Union Britain - Wales v South Africa - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales - 26/11/16 South Africa Head Coach Allister Coetzee before the match Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic

Coetzee was sacked as Springbok coach in February after securing 11 wins out of 25 tests - and the side have been noticeably more potent on attack and confident with the ball in hand in their three tests in 2018.

Erasmus told reporters that was because of a process started by Coetzee last year as he brought the coaches of the country’s Super Rugby and PRO14 teams together to discuss how to improve skill levels and training.

“Allister started with that indaba (conference) last year and got the Super Rugby coaches together and chatted about some core fundamentals they wanted to get right,” Erasmus said.

“I have got no doubt that the players are better equipped to attack (this year). All the franchises, including the teams that are playing in PRO14, the Cheetahs and Kings, they really try to attack.

“Without a doubt the skill level on attack is better and we are fortunate that Allister started that (process) last year.”

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - Wales vs South Africa - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - December 2, 2017 Wales head coach Warren Gatland and South Africa head coach Allister Coetzee before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Erasmus said he would not make wholesale changes to the Bok side for the dead-rubber third test but with wet weather expected at Newlands, will pick horses for courses as the home side seeks to inflict a sixth test defeat in a row on England.

“We are going to make a few changes, not just because we have already won the series but with the expected wet weather conditions some guys will fit in better. I wouldn’t say wholesale changes, but there will be four or five.”

One of those could be a return for ‘retired’ hooker Schalk Brits for a first test since 2015. His experience of playing in the wet during a decade spent at Saracens could be vital.

“He comes into the reckoning. It just depends starting or from the bench,” Erasmus said.

“His plan was to retire, but after this weekend we will have a good sit-down and see where we are in terms of depth and experience with Chiliboy (Ralepelle), Bongi (Mbonambi), Malcolm (Marx) and Akker (Van der Merwe) really doing well, that’s four solid hookers.”

Erasmus says that even if Brits does not make it onto the pitch again for the Boks, his inclusion in the squad this week after he had announced his retirement from rugby has been a good one.

“What he has brought to the party in terms of what the others hookers have learnt from him has helped tremendously, so if it stops this weekend then it is still purpose fulfilled,” Erasmus said.

Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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