South Africa chief Rassie Erasmus can claim his mind games paid off

Rassie the Rascal has the last laugh! South Africa’s director of rugby Erasmus can claim his mind games paid off after several calls went the Springboks’ way in the second Test

  • Erasmus filmed an hour-long monologue about the referees after the first Test
  • Many questioned his methods, composure and professionalism after the rant 
  • But several controversial calls were given in South Africa’s favour on Saturday 
  • So Erasmus will feel his pre-match antics have paid off – so, what will he do next? 

On the streets of Cape Town they all hailed Rassie the Rascal. After spending the week firing out rogue tweets, leaking videos on the internet and torching his reputation as a cool and collected character, it was the Springbok director of rugby who had the last laugh.

It’s not the first time Rassie Erasmus has pushed the boundaries in the pursuit of victory. Those who know him best claim he’s a genius — a workaholic who went from driving tanks to winning the World Cup.

He has a reputation as an innovator. During his early days coaching the Cats, he took his team physio and promoted him to defence coach. That physio was Jacques Nienaber, who is now the Springboks head coach. They became a double act and last night they starred in the Saturday night primetime slot.

Rassie Erasmus (second left) will feel his comments on referees helped his side on Saturday

Erasmus filmed an hour-long monologue about the referees after the first Test last weekend

‘They were like Laurel and Hardy when we were at the Cats,’ said hooker Schalk Brits. ‘A perfect couple. They work together extremely well and they sometimes do things a little quirky.

‘When I moved to the Stormers, we played against Rassie’s team. They had left a sheet with all their lineout calls in the changing room. Our coach called us in two hours early the next day to learn these calls. Come the match, guess what? They weren’t even the calls being used!

‘With the Cheetahs, Rassie would sit on the roof of the stadium with different coloured lights for different moves and he used these lights to relay information during the match. He was always ahead of the curve.

‘What has Rassie done this week? All I can say is that he’s always clued up with what he says. He has taken the focus away from his players and put it on himself. It’s pretty much what Eddie Jones does with England.’

Cheslin Kolbe (No 14) was lucky to escape a red for taking out Conor Murray (top) in the air

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi (left) was judged to have prevented a Robbie Henshaw (bottom) try

The pantomime villain stole the show. To an extent, he torched his own reputation to create a media frenzy, before his team arrived under the radar at the Cape Town Stadium to snatch victory. Another success story for the Rassie Roadshow.

At Munster, Erasmus used to call in players at random to sit in on the coaches’ meeting. They would be asked to contribute to tactical review sessions. All in the name of transparency. ‘There’s always a method to what he’s doing,’ said his former Munster assistant Jerry Flannery.

‘He’s not a knee-jerk guy and he certainly wouldn’t lose the plot. He knew the reaction he’d get so it would all be part of a plan. He controlled the narrative, didn’t he?

‘He’s the smartest rugby guy I’ve ever come across. Rassie would take a step back and feel where the energy of the group was at. 

Murray was hit hard by Faf de Klerk (9) in the tackle but officials did not spend long viewing it

‘The year they arrived, our head coach Anthony Foley died. The way they handled that showed their ability to connect emotionally with the players.

‘We had a European game that weekend and he said: ‘You guys buried your head coach this week, you’ll never do anything harder than that in your life, this match will feel so easy’. He’s so good at connecting with the emotional side of the group and he seems very human. He talks about his own mistakes and you identify with that.’

Perhaps one day Erasmus will look back on this week as one of his mistakes, despite the victory. Many have accused him of bringing the game into disrepute, but here in South Africa his allies have remained firm.

‘The big debate is whether Rassie was right or wrong,’ said his former team-mate Brendan Venter. ‘If you know Rassie, he’s incredibly committed to the cause. Why did Rassie go that far? Because he knows what it means to the country.’

Who knows what the man has got up his sleeve next? 

Lukhanyo Am scored a disputed try, with Nigel Owens saying he was not in control of the ball

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