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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

Rassie's riveting clips an invaluable insight into pre-World Cup prep

Covid-19 might have given some of you time and space to reassess your team’s culture, so here’s how Rassie worked.

PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE, but winning never is.

“Boys,” says Rassie Erasmus as he corralled his players ahead of the World Cup final against England in November, “get yourself to 120 tackles and win 80 of them. But don’t get yourself to 50 and lose only four.”

Munster players will have taken many reminders, but for the rest of us the sudden appearance of Erasmus’ Twitter account has brought a fascinating insight into the operations of a top class coach in a high performance environment.

Since guiding the southern province through an incredibly difficult period in the wake of Anthony Foley’s death, Erasmus has succeeded in rejuvenating the Springboks, turning a rabble into a steamroller inexorably trundling towards World Cup success.

Erasmus shows traces of his stint in Ireland by using Brent Pope’s damning indictment of the ‘Boks after their 2017 defeat in Dublin to illustrate how quickly fortunes can be turned around.

There is something of a contradiction in Erasmus’ latest post on the month-old account that surely operates as a teaser vehicle for a forthcoming documentary. He speaks about the humility of ‘doing the right thing’ and not speaking about it. But, frankly, we’re thrilled he’s bending that rule to show off so much of his brilliance in instilling a culture within the Springbok squad.

The key cornerstones of Erasmus’ pre-tournament meetings appeared to centre around humility, sacrifice and effort above all else. Each one, of course, feeds the other to an extent.

In the case of the former, Erasmus presents himself as a cautionary tale

“I went through two years when nobody told me I was being an absolute dick,” the ‘Boks boss told his squad.

In doing so, he is acknowledging an understandable cycle in a professional career and encouraging his players to be mindful of the ‘entitled’ phase that comes after desperation, honour at the achievement and then satisfaction.

Warding off the entitlement must be a sense of ownership.

“This ownership is also about the team. If you don’t have the balls to tell one of your team members, ‘hey, you’re being a dick. You’re being an arsehole, you’re in this entitled mode’ then you’re also not taking ownership.”

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Ownership, in Erasmus’ rugby context, means going the extra mile. Not accepting ready-made excuses for falling just short. In a meeting with players about his thinking behind use of replacements, he explains.

“It’s not when you lose a line-out, or kick the ball out direct to touch or miss a kick to poles. It’s when you stop putting yourself into battles…

“Get off the ground, look for the scraps. Be alert. Go up for the bloody ball. Don’t get blocked if a guy’s jockeying you or escorting you, don’t have it as an excuse.

“Find a way – outside the touchline and get in there – come from a different angle. Don’t let them block you with normal stuff, find a fucking way, it’s gonna happen at Test match level.”

The genius of Erasmus is underlined by his messaging ahead of the World Cup final win over England, when he doubles down on the drive for more and more effort while taking the pressure and weight of mistakes away by spelling out how individuals can react if errors do come.

If you play shit today, you don’t have the right to drop your head. It’s not about you.

“If you lose a line-out, jump up and go make the next tackle. If you miss a tackle, you must jump up and go do the next clean-out. If you miss a high ball, think about the next one and go make the next one.”

Clearly, there is far more to the Springbok success story than what Erasmus will post on his new social channels, but when it comes to giving a group of men a sense of singular purpose, he’s a tough man to follow.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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