'Nervous' Rassie happy to set tongues a-wagging
REACTION: The public are talking and the bookmakers are shortening the odds on the Springboks.
It is a situation that is making coach Rassie Erasmus very happy, even though he admits to still being nervous heading into the World Cup in Japan.
The Boks, as the Rugby Championship winners, have moved into second place behind tournament favourites and defending champions New Zealand.
Erasmus said it makes him happy knowing that people are talking about the Springboks again, whether it is positive or negative stuff.
“They’re debating team selections and game plans,” the coach told a media briefing after naming his 31-man squad on Monday.
“I love it that there are expectations.
“We are also talking about those things within the group.”
Erasmus said the team can now focus on the task at hand – winning the Webb Ellis Cup.
“We have a saying in the team: ‘Let the main thing stay the main thing’.
“That is playing and training well.
“That’s what we should be good at – playing and coach well on Saturdays.”
He admitted they are some way off from where they should be head of the start of the tournament next month.
“The expectation is now there for us to overturn the [2015 shock loss] to Japan in Brighton and to do well against the All Blacks [in the first World Cup pool match].
“It makes me nervous, but it also makes me helluva proud because of the opportunity.
“It gives me sleepless nights and makes me nervous.
“For us, it is all about the rugby. We want to make the nation proud with the way we play.
“We have planned and trained to be competitive at the World Cup and the work done and the performances this year have put us into a good space.”
Trophy-holders New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, South Africa and Wales are considered the strongest title contenders.
Among them, the Springboks are the only side unbeaten since July.
“Rugby World Cups are usually decided by small margins – a foot in touch here or a referee’s call there – but we have a very good squad that has grown into a tight unit over the past few months.
“I am very happy with the squad we have been able to select.
“We have been developing this squad since the start of last season and have a good balance of established experience and some exciting youth.
“We set out with the goal of growing the depth of the squad and I am confident that any of this 31 can step into a playoff match at the Rugby World Cup and deliver an outstanding performance.”
Siya Kolisi will captain the squad and is one of a record 11 black players chosen for a South Africa World Cup squad, up from eight who went to the last tournament in England and Wales four years ago.
Kolisi, the first black Test captain of the Springboks, said Erasmus has taken the Boks to another level.
South Africa leave for Japan Friday and will play the World Cup hosts on September 6 ahead of a mouth-watering Pool B opener against defending champions New Zealand 15 days later.
The Springboks also face Namibia, Italy and Canada with the pool winners and runners-up qualifying for the quarter-finals.
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