Springboks

Rassie backs Boks to reach 50% transformation target in 2019

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Rassie Erasmus (Getty)
Rassie Erasmus (Getty)

Cape Town - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes the national side is on course to reach its 50% transformation target in 2019.

At a press briefing at a Newlands hotel on Tuesday, Erasmus also debunked the myth that this year's World Cup squad that will travel to Japan must made up of 50% players of colour.

Instead, Erasmus explained, the 50% target applies to the average number of players of colour that the Boks field in their match-day 23s throughout the year. 

Transforming the Boks has been one of Erasmus's major mandates since taking the head coach position at the start of the 2018, but he failed in that regard last year. 

Set a target of 45% in 2018, just 38.3% of those who were named in Springbok match-day squads last year were players of colour. 

It is not clear what the consequences are for Erasmus after missing that target, but he can be certain that government pressure will be heightened during what is both an election year and a World Cup year in 2019. 

Despite falling short of the target in 2018, Erasmus believes the Boks made significant progress by unearthing new talents such as Aphiwe Dyantyi, S'bu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Embrose Papier

"It's so nice that we can speak about transformation openly without talking around it," the coach said when pressed on the issue.

"Last year I thought we did better in transformation and I think there were some clear things that we did well in terms of giving new guys opportunities.

"There are so many positives, but we still didn't achieve the target of 45%."

The landscape changes once more in 2019. 

"Obviously it's 50% this year and I think we have to be clear about that," Erasmus explained.

"50% is an average of players playing over the year in terms of the match-day 23. Selecting a World Cup squad of 31 is not to say that 15-and-a-half must be players of colour.

"It's an average of players in your match-day 23 of the year's Test matches. I really believe that with the exposure we've given to players last year, we will be able to get to that.

"I don't think people must expected us to pick 16 or 15 players of colour out of the 31. We might pick 13, 12 or 17 depending on form, but it's the average of match-day 23s over the Test matches  in the year."

Erasmus looked back to 2018 and said that the need to transform was part of the reason he tried so many different players and combinations throughout the year.

"That's why sometimes (last year) we experimented at Test match level with some players in certain positions. That's why we blooded some guys slower than others guys, knowing that this year we would need a bigger pool to pick from," he said.

"We might, if we have a few injuries, have a challenge but I think that with the pool of players we have we can reach that target."

The Springboks have just five Test matches left before their World Cup opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 21, while their first Test of the year will be on July 20 against the Wallabies in Johannesburg as the shortened Rugby Championship gets underway. 

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