Bok coach reveals what life is like without 'water boy' Rassie
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has shed some light on what life is like inside the Springbok camp without the presence of Rassie Erasmus.
The World Champions are in Brisbane preparing for their first tour without Erasmus since 2018.
Erasmus, now SA’s Directory of Rugby, stepped down as coach after the 2019 World Cup, but continued to be a prominent figure in the Boks’ coaching set-up.
The 48-year-old worked closely with new head coach Nienaber and fulfilled the role of the team’s water-carrier during the British and Irish Lions series, relaying important messages to the team from the box.
He missed the first Test against Argentina and returned for the second Test against Los Pumas in Gqeberha.
Ahead of the Australia leg of the Rugby Championship, SA Rugby confirmed that Erasmus will be absent for the opening stages of the Rugby Championship.
While Erasmus will not physically be present with the Springboks, head coach Nienaber revealed that Erasmus still plays an active role.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Test against Wallabies, Nienaber explained Erasmus has a new remote role from South Africa and preparation is ‘business as usual’.
“I had a conversation minutes ago,” Nienaber said, adding: “The key thing between myself and Rassie, is that we operate a little bit differently than a normal Director of rugby and head coach.
“Even when he was head coach, and I was assistant coach, we operated a little bit differently.
“The best way to describe it is that we probably are not confined by our job titles.
“Being Director of rugby almost puts you in a box and you operate in that scope, but we don’t work like that.
“The team understands that I have certain responsibilities and Rassie has got certain responsibilities.
“In all my responsibilities, he gives input. Not only him but the rest of the coaching staff as well and it’s vice-versa with Rassie. He will have certain aspects that he is responsible for, that I will give input there.
“In that sense, it sounds weird, but our life is going on between myself and him as per normal. His engagement with our team is as per normal.
“One positive about COVID-19 is that technology has made the world small. You can be in somebody else’s living room in 10 seconds.
“We go through the same weekly structure and programme as if he was here.
“Hats off to him for almost flipping his days and nights around to fit in with our schedule.
“He will sit in with our team meetings, obviously he is not on the pitch. But he will be part of us during the day when he can join us.
“For me, sitting here, it’s business as usual.”
Erasmus and SA Rugby are preparing for a misconduct hearing, following a 62-minute video where he criticised referee Nic Berry and his officials after the first Test between Springboks and B&I Lions.
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The return of Thor
The Springboks welcomed back Francois de Klerk (leg strain) and Herschel Jantjies (hip pointer), as well as flank Marco van Staden (ankle) – all fully recovered from their respective from injuries.
The big talking is the return of Duane Vermeulen, who will make his first appearance for the Springboks since the 2019 World Cup Final.
Nienaber said it was great to have Vermeulen back, but he is concerned that it could some time for the loose forward to get up to speed with the intensity of Test matches – given his long absence.
“Duane has been part of our training since the week leading up to the last British and Irish Lions Test,” Nienaber said.
“He is on track in terms of where we thought he would be. I think it will take some time to get used to the pace and it takes a couple of matches.
“However in saying that, Duane has been part of the Springboks for over 50 Tests so he is an experienced player, He has been there before and he almost knows the shortcuts to the things on the field.
“In terms of how many minutes he plays, it will depend on how the game unfolds on the day,”
The Springboks will go head to head with the Wallabies on Sunday, September 12 at the Robina Stadium in the Gold Coast.