Springboks

Mallett heaps praise on Rassie for turning around Bok fortunes: 'He did so much for rugby in SA'

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Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Johan Rynners/Gallo Images

Former national coach Nick Mallett has credited SA Rugby's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus for turning around the fortunes of Springbok rugby.

Erasmus took over as Springbok coach in 2018 after the team had won just 11 of 25 matches in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Erasmus turned the Boks into world champions inside two years and Mallett believes it was a masterstroke from SA Rugby to rope him in.

In an interview with The XV website, Mallett said Erasmus made a natural transition from player to coach at the Cheetahs in 2005.

In his first year as Cheetahs head coach, Erasmus won the Currie Cup in 2005 and also shared the trophy with the Bulls the following year, before again winning the title outright in 2007.

He would then head to the Stormers where he became director of rugby in 2008.

"His attention for detail was incredible during his stints at the Cheetahs and the Stormers. He'd crack the lineout calls of every opposition team. He prepared his charges for every eventuality. That wasn't a coach looking to control his players but empower them through knowledge," Mallett said.

Erasmus was technical analyst at SA Rugby between 2011 and 2016 before moving to Irish outfit Munster.

The structures Erasmus put in place at SA Rugby reaped its rewards, according to Mallett.

"He did so much for rugby in South Africa. He put an identification programme into place to monitor players from under-16 level upwards. That was so important in identifying and nurturing black players and helping SA Rugby to realise their transformation goals at the higher levels."

Moving to Ireland was a big step in Erasmus' personal development and rugby education, Mallett added.

"He worked alongside Axel Foley and, when Foley tragically passed away, the fallout in that tight-knit Munster community was massive. The players were hurting after losing such an inspirational figure. The way Rassie responded in that situation was nothing short of fantastic. It was a big emotional test. He then took on the job of head coach and did an admirable job.

"He'd always had the technical and tactical coaching gifts. When he came back, however, he had the emotional intelligence to complement those strengths. That's what the stint at Munster gave to him."

Erasmus has since taken a back seat as head coach to focus on his director of rugby duties, with his long-time assistant Jacques Nienaber now in charge as Springbok head coach.

Erasmus and Nienaber have a long history, having first met in Bloemfontein when Erasmus was a player and Nienaber the Cheetahs' team physiotherapist.

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