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'In South Africa, pressure is having a close relative who is murdered' - Erasmus

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus explains how his team embraced any pressure at the World Cup.

WITH THE INSPIRATIONAL Springboks captain Siya Kolisi sitting alongside him, Rassie Erasmus put everything into perspective.

All week long, the South Africans had spoken about trying to win this World Cup final for their country.

Their mission was to bring people together, unite them, give them joy, give them hope.

rassie-erasmus-celebrates Rassie Erasmus coached the Springboks to World Cup glory. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sometimes messages like those in sport can seem flippant or come across as plain old bullshit, but it’s very clear that the Springboks truly believed in their mission, none more so than Kolisi – raised in an impoverished township in Port Elizabeth and now a World Cup-winning captain.

While it seemed obvious there would be pressure on the Boks coming into their clash with England in the World Cup decider against England, they played like a team entirely at ease with the big occasion.

Few people expected the Boks to win this World Cup, particularly after an opening defeat to the All Blacks, but Erasmus’ men became the first team to win a Rugby World Cup after losing a game along the way. 

Reflecting after his side’s remarkable 32-12 win over the English, Erasmus said that pool-stage defeat to the Kiwis ended up being positive in changing how the Boks viewed pressure.

“It was my first World Cup as a coach, certainly expectations were [high],” said the former Munster boss. “I think the first All Blacks game was a great test run in terms of us handling pressure.

“We were terrible that week, we were tense in talking about things and it was a terrible build-up and that taught us how to handle the quarter-final and semi-final and so on.

“Overall, we started talking about what pressure is. In South Africa, it [pressure] is not having a job. Pressure is having a close relative who is murdered.

“In South Africa, there is a lot of problems that create pressure. Rugby should not be something that creates pressure, rugby should create hope.

“We started talking about rugby being a privilege, not a burden. Hope is not talking about hope. It’s not saying you’ve got hope, tweeting a beautiful tweet, things like that.

rg-snyman-celebrates-with-rassie-erasmus-after-the-game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Hope is when you play well and people watch the game on a Saturday and have a nice braai [barbecue] going.

“They have a nice barbecue, watch the game and feel good afterwards no matter of political or religious difference. For those 80 minutes, you agree when you usually disagree.

“We started believing in that and saying that is not our responsibility, that is our privilege to try and fix those things.

“The moment you see it that way, it becomes a hell of a privilege and that was the way we tackled the whole World Cup campaign.”

Watching Kolisi, the first-ever black captain of the Springboks, lift the William Webb Ellis trophy was remarkable, capping an incredible story for him as an individual too.

“We had a good chat yesterday when we did the jersey presentation for his 50th Test match,” said Erasmus of his captain.

“It is easy to talk about going through hard times and struggling to get opportunities but it is tough when there are days when you didn’t have food or couldn’t go to school or didn’t have shoes to wear.

“When you sit down and think about it, there was a stage when Siya didn’t have food to eat and, yes, that is the captain and he led South Africa to hold this cup and that is what Siya is.” 

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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