Rassie Erasmus will go down in history as one of the best coaches in South African history. When he took over the team it looked as if there was no way forward for the Boks. We were losing badly to the All Blacks, Australia and even Argentina. On the field there was no identifiable game plan and that compounded with off field issues lead to a sub-par Springbok team over the last 8 years or so.
Rassie came in with a plan and implemented it quite nicely. He built a team but not only a team, a squad, a squad that showed a unity not seen in the Springboks, arguably ever! He did not play favourites or reputations he picked from a pool of players that had out played any other SA players over a period.
With the Springboks winning the World Cup I thought that I would take stock of what we have left and look ahead to see what the squad may look like in 4years time.
This will be key in the next 2 years especially. In the past we have badly fallen off the wagon after winning the World Cup. There were many factors at play during these times and I would prefer to look forward rather than focusing on what went wrong, although reflection should always play a part in getting better as well. So, continuity, Jacques Nienaber has been tipped to take over from out going Coach Rassie Erasmus. Nienaber is responsible for the Springboks much vaunted rush defence and has been with Rassie for over 10 years. He would probably be most qualified to carry out Rassie’s master plan for Springbok rugby over the next 4 years. Rassie has said although he will focus on his job as Director of Rugby, he will be actively involved in the Springbok setup. Just what that means however is unclear at this point. Whether he will be focused on building the squad for 4 years’ time or whether he will be looking at the younger players coming through the school and provincial set up, we will have to wait and see where Rassie thinks his attention is needed most
From the squad that won the World Cup I count 20 players that have a chance of making the next tournament in 4 years’ time.
Forwards: Bongi Mbonambi (28), Eben Etzebeth (27), Franco Mostert (28), Frans Malherbe (28), Kwagga Smith (26), Lood de Jagger (26), Malcom Marx (25), Pieter-Steph du Toit (27), RG Snyman (24), Siya Kolisi (28), Steven Kitshoff (27)
Backs: Cheslin Kolbe (25), Damian de Allende (27), Faf de Klerk (27), Handre Pollard (25), Herschel Jantjies (23), Jesse Kriel (25), Lukhanyo Am (25), S’bu Nkosi (23) Warrick Gelant (24)
Now if you look at those players most are in their mid-twenties and I think this is no coincidence. Rassie has picked a squad there that if they stay in form, most will be able to play in the next world Cup. There are a few players that would need some load management before the tournament, but this is nothing new before a World Cup year. Of the players I haven’t mention from the squad I don’t think most of them can make it to the next tournament however we have seen players prolong their careers more and more these days so there is still a for some of the vets to make it, if they are performing to level required.
I’ve also picked out some future stars who I think have the potential to be there in 4 years’ time. Aphelele Fassi, Dan du Preez, Robert du Preez, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Hacjivah Dayimani, Madosh Tambwe, Marvin Orie, Juanrno Augustus, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Seabelo Senatla, Damian Willemse, Dylan Sage. All these players are under 27 years of age and have shown bits of form in the last season or so. If they take that next step in their respective games, then there is no reason they can’t be involved in 4 years’ time.
Rassie also leaves behind a very capable coaching staff in Jacques Nienaber, Mzwandile Stick and Mathew Proudfoot. All signs are that these coaches will be continuing for the foreseeable future. This will be instrumental in both keeping the current squad together as well as introducing new members to the squad in future. While the coaching staff and Rassie have lost some control over the way players are managed during the season with a number of players heading for foreign shores to secure their futures I still believe that there are enough core squad members and young talented players to fill the void if we encounter a lot of injuries in seasons to come.Overall, I would say that the outlook is positive for the future of rugby in SA is positive. I believe Rassie still has massive plans for South African rugby as a whole and not just the Springbok team. I hope his plan is to keep the team consistently at the pinnacle of world rugby so that we don’t go through the dips in form we have been through in the past. Its important that we learn from mistakes we have made in the past so that we can be better going forward and I think Rassie is the man to take SA rugby to a new level in years to come. This could be the start of something special for rugby in South Africa and it all kick started when Siya Kolisi lifted the World Cup trophy on November 2nd, 2019.