Siya Kolisi (Gallo Images)
Lee Warren (Gallo Images)
- Springbok World Cup winning coach Rassie Erasmus says even with five minutes to play, he was nervous about the result.
- “I kept asking Mzwandile Stick (assistant coach), can we still lose this?”
- After the final whistle went, “I felt embarrassed,” he says.
“I thought s**t, life can’t be this unfair again.”
This is what was going through the mind of Springbok World Cup winning coach Rassie Erasmus as the clock wound down at the Yokohama Stadium in Japan on 2 November last year during the final against England.
At that stage, the Springboks had put themselves in a position to win the game thanks to tries by wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.
Erasmus’s nerves were down to him still being haunted by previous World Cup campaigns.
Springbok fans will remember a Bryce Lawrence refereeing special in the 2011 quarter-final against Australia (yes, we are still talking about that) put paid to any Bok challenge at that edition, while the jury is still out on whether the shock loss to Japan or the two-point defeat at the hands of the All Blacks – who made it back to back titles with the 2015 win – in the semi-final is where they actually lost their challenge.
“With about five minutes to play, I kept looking back at (assistant coach Mzwandile) Stick asking, can we still lose this game from here. And the reason I was asking was because I wanted to get Herschel Jantjies (replacement scrumhalf) on, but if I did that, we wouldn’t have a replacement on the bench and I said to him I want Hersch to play as well.
“Stick told me to relax, we’ve won and that I should send Jantjies on, and I did,” Erasmus said.
The now full-time SA Rugby director of rugby was a guest on The Crest Talks on Thursday – a leadership talk hosted by the Stellenbosch University alumni office.
He was speaking exclusively on how the Springboks, under his watch, went from a negligible sixth on the world rankings to champagne sipping champions.
The session was hosted virtually.
“At full-time, I actually felt embarrassed about it… also because I thought, how is it that I felt so entitled to winning it that I could even think it ‘will be taken away from us’ because I really thought it can’t happen again because we have been through so much,” Erasmus explained, going as far back as referencing the 1999 and 2003 editions.
“I’m so honoured to have coached them (2019 group). It was so easy to motivate them, and from the quarter-final (at the world cup), I could see they were playing for South Africa.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic causing all sorts of disruptions on a global scale, the director of rugby would have been pleased with the two good news items which emerged last week: the return to non-contact training for eight professional teams and the mooted October – December international window.