Rassie's sage advice for France and England
The South African Rugby Union’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has always been a ‘glass half full’ type of guy.
That is why he feels the national teams of England and France are being negatively impacted by the huge influx of foreign players in the Premiership and Top 14.
In contrast, South Africa now has the best of both worlds – a pipeline to produce quality replacements for the world-class Springboks abroad, while those players remain available.
Erasmus believes that the Six Nations teams – like England and France – suffer the consequences of so many foreigners taking up spaces of domestic players in their top-tier competitions.
Players like Francois de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Willie Le Roux, Handre Pollard and Eben Etzebeth – to name but a few – are taking up key positions at Premiership and Top 14 clubs.
Erasmus had seven Euro-based players in his matchday squad that beat Eddie Jones’ England 32-12 in the World Cup Final in November.
He suggested England and France should look at giving more opportunities to local players in the Premiership and Top 14.
* Watch from 13 minutes 50 seconds for Erasmus’ comments on the problems in the English and French systems …
“If you compare our system with the English system, the New Zealand system and the difference in the French system – you see what [England coach] Eddie Jones is currently confronted with,” the SA Rugby boss said.
“They [England] have a wonderful system where the elite player pathway is fantastic.
“England is very competitive at the junior World Cup, but when they get to the Premiership, clubs are owned by wealthy businessmen and 70 percent of the players are foreigners.
“We [South Africa] have 400-odd players playing abroad.
“For example, of the 12 premiership clubs, seven scrumhalves are not even English qualified.
“There are also flyhalves that aren’t English qualified.
“You’ve got the French who are currently doing very well at junior level, but the French top league [Top 14] is filled with South Africans and New Zealanders.
“So for the French national team to do really well it is extremely tough,” Erasmus added.
He does not share the view that the large number of South African players abroad is a massive negative.
“In contrast, we only have three or four foreign players playing in our domestic competitions.”
He pointed out that the domestic conveyor belt keeps pushing through talented young players who get opportunities in Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions.
“You can see it as a negative, but I see it as a positive,” he said of the massive number of SA players plying their trade abroad.
He pointed to players like Aphelele Fassi, Curwin Bosch, Manie Libbok and Sanele Nohamba as examples of success stories on the domestic scene.
“We have a wonderful pipeline and the youngsters are coming through,” Erasmus said.
“The players that are playing there [Premiership and Top 14] are taking up space from players that could play for their national team.”
That is also the reason why Erasmus created a special and unique post for Irishman Felix Jones, who has a new role as a European-based coaching consultant.
“Currently there are more than 400 South Africans playing overseas,” Erasmus said.
“Realistically there are only about 10 or 20 performing at Test-match level.
“He [Jones] will be based in Dublin and part of his job description is to service those [Euro-based] players for us.
“So when those [Euro-based] players come into camp, they will be fully on board on what our plan is, what their conditioning is.”
* Watch from eight minutes 50 seconds for Erasmus’ comments on Felix Jones …