Sat 27 Jun 2020 | 05:00

A coach who shunned the limelight

A coach who shunned the limelight
Sat 27 Jun 2020 | 05:00
A coach who shunned the limelight

FLASHBACK: Rassie Erasmus is someone who does not enjoy the limelight and his time as Springbok head coach is evidence of this.


The 47-year-old transformed the national team from a laughing stock to world champions within 18 months of succeeding sacked Allister Coetzee, which was a remarkable feat.

It was even more remarkable with SA Rugby admitting this week that the coach battled a life-threatening illness during the 2019 World Cup.

Unknown to most of his 31-strong squad, the coach suffered from microscopic polyangiitis with granulomatosis, which can affect vital organs such as the kidneys and lungs.

While the disease is not cancerous, the coach suffered a rare strain of it that was potentially fatal, according to his doctor, Johan Theron.

“Rassie does not want everybody talking about him because his outlook is that everything is about team success and not individual issues,” said Springbok World Cup winner Francois Louw

“He is the type of person that does not look for sympathy or empathy. Only his inner circle were aware of his condition.


“When I recall his work as head coach before and during the World Cup, you could never tell anything was wrong with him. I was one of the few players who knew about his condition.”

More evidence of the type of man Erasmus is was when he refused to accept the World Cup trophy with skipper Siya Kolisi in Japan

Video footage showed Kolisi going behind his teammates and pleading with Erasmus to come forward and share the special moment.

But Erasmus refused to budge.


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The footage captures Kolisi making an impassioned plea to his coach to come forward with him after South Africa had beaten England 32-12 in the final in Yokohama.

Kolisi eventually returned to the front of the stage and raised the trophy to mark the third time the Springboks had conquered the world after 1995 and 2007.

As the TV cameras zoomed in on the celebrating Springboks, there was initially no sign of former Springbok Erasmus, a loose forward capped 36 times between 1997 and 2001.

‘Very private person’

A close friend of Erasmus, who requested anonymity, told AFP that the incident symbolises a coach who shunned the limelight and wanted to let his players to share it.

“I have seen the footage and it is so typical of Rassie. To him, winning the World Cup was all about the team,” he said.

“Recalling the past, the areas of rugby Rassie liked least both as a player and a coach were press conferences and media attention.

“He is a very private person who considers the team comes first and that is why all those Springbok players respect him so much.”

Erasmus left his temporary position as head coach after the World Cup and returned to his original director of rugby post, overseeing all national male and female teams.

Jacques Nienaber, the defence coach in the triumphant 2019 World Cup Springboks and the right-hand man of Erasmus, has been appointed head coach.

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