Rassie to coach Bulls – Jake

Jake White

If you put your Springbok thinking-cap on, Rassie Erasmus taking over as Bulls coach is a great move.

Michael Cheika was still the Waratahs coach when he guided Australia to the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and he continues to reap rewards from that stint because he’s got a good relationship with the Waratahs players who are important to the Wallabies.

Cheika dropped Bernard Foley this year, shifted Israel Folau to centre and made Michael Hooper the captain, and all of those things were easier to do because of his background as the Waratahs coach and his history with those players.

The Bulls have just signed Duane Vermeulen, who followed Rassie from the Cheetahs to the Stormers and was almost named the Bok captain earlier this year.

Jesse Kriel, RG Snyman, Embrose Papier, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Handre Pollard and Warrick Gelant are others based at Loftus Versfeld, and the Boks would benefit from having them working with the national coach on a weekly basis.

Cheika’s Waratahs assistants are now with the Wallabies. Rassie could also develop a pathway for his Bulls assistant coaches, helped by members of the Bok management team like Jacques Nienaber. In a lot of ways, this would satisfy the demands of Rassie’s role as South Africa’s director of rugby because he would spend part of the year upskilling coaches for the future.

Victor Matfield only lasted a short while as a coach at the Lions, but working under Rassie for a season would give him a chance to prove he’s ready to be a head coach, and it would give the decision-makers at the Bulls a chance to see him in action before they make up their mind.

Being hands-on with a Super Rugby team would also allow Rassie to try a few things against the New Zealand teams before the World Cup.

There will be a mass exodus of players after next year when Springbok contracts are replaced by match fees. A player who currently has a dual contract worth R3m (with half covered by his union and the other by his Bok contract) can’t be expected to stick around after he loses 50 percent of that guaranteed income.

While the match fees are set to be inflated, the reality is that very few players will feature in every Test, every year and that means the change in payment structure actually encourages players to go overseas.

Vermeulen and Marx are star players and neither of them have appeared in every Test this year, so why would they stay in South Africa? Duane only signed at the Bulls for one year and that’s a clear indication that the switch from long-term Bok contracts to match fees has influenced his decision.

I find the change very puzzling. Two of the smallest rugby-playing nations in the world, New Zealand and Ireland are first and second on the rankings. Their coaches and players are all paid by the head office and they have to stay in the country to play for the national team. So why would we go in completely the opposite direction?

The central control in Ireland is why Ruan Pienaar had to leave Ulster so that they could blood another Irish scrumhalf, and why the IRFU shifted flyhalf Joey Carberry from Leinster to Munster.

In New Zealand, a guy is moved from the Highlanders to the Crusaders and depth is created when another player from North Harbour gets a shot to play for the Highlanders in Super Rugby.

That’s the equivalent of finding a Tukkies prop to play for the Stormers, or a club rugby player from SWD getting promoted into the Lions squad on a one-year contract. It’s common practice in New Zealand and it creates competition, depth and eventually a better national team.

How do we intend to compete with New Zealand and Ireland when we’re moving further away from that model? And why would we go that route?

You can’t expect a player to stay in South Africa for half the money, especially when he can go overseas and still have a chance to earn an inflated Bok match fee.

And the problem goes beyond the number of players who will move north. At Verblitz, we were asked to release Gio Aplon outside of the November Test window so that he could fly to Cape Town last week to process a visa for France. I’m not sure how many European clubs are going to allow that with multiple players every season. And if those clubs don’t accommodate the Boks, then we will have players arriving in camp on the Monday of game week, which isn’t enough time to prepare to win a Test match.

But if Rassie signs on to coach the Bulls there is a chance that he will be able to convince key players not to leave. Maybe his influence as the national coach would keep some of the key talent in South Africa and ensure that Rassie doesn’t spend every May and October begging overseas clubs for an early release of his squad.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Arch Rautenbach

    He uses Micheal Chieka as an example but, Micheal Chieka isn’t the Director of rugby for Rugby Australia. How is Rassie going to tell the other union coaches what to do and how to manage some Springbok players while he is head coach of an opposing team? Also, Rassie was Director of Rugby when he appointed himself as head coach of the Bokke, and now he is sitting on the panel that is suppose to choose the next head coach for the Bulls. If he appoints himself again it will raise a few eyebrows. And does the head coach of the Bokke as well as Director of Rugby for South African Rugby want to be that busy with coaching a Super Rugby team in a World cup year. And all this while there are proper head coaches in South Africa without a coaching contract. Dawie Theron is one example.

    • Stanley

      Exactly. Imagine Rassie coaching the Bulls, telling Flecky to rest Eben, PdT and Louw – remember that the Bulls and Stormers (and other SA unions) will be in a race to win the SA conference. I think Jake likes the idea, because than Rassie can appoint him to the Bulls/Boks at some stage. Use Stonehouse, Matty or de Villiers at the Bulls

    • Nezo

      yha i agree with you. Jake did not think this through. its too much Work. too much work for one person can be distracting even for Rassie. remember all these positions will come with great pressure and his focus will have to be greatly stretched. its a no no.

      Good on Jake though to find that another coach can be a mentor beside himself. that means he recognises and Acknowledges quality when he sees it.

    • Tobokani

      Yah no it doesn’t seem like Jake White thought this one through does it? To be fair, this is par for the course for his articles on this site.

  • John Comyn

    Here’s my theory. SARU have huge financial problems (for whatever reason) so they decide to implement a “turn around” strategy. Enter the internal bean counters or a consulting firm comprising of a number of bean counters. Accountants, typically, look to cut costs versus ways to increase revenue. One would expect them to do the due diligence as a priority. I’m sure they did an investigation into how the game is run in this country to establish where all the money is going to. One of the things they came up with is stopping all national contracts. Did they fully understand the impact of such a decision? Perhaps not. Did they consult with players? Did they consult with overseas coaches (White, Ackerman, Meyer etc) or did they even have the discussion with Rassie? Did they consult with other unions like NZ and Ireland? I would say definitely not! Surely paying players more to keep them here is one way. To do this they need more bums on seats so maybe reduce the ticket prices. If I want to take my kids to a game it is going to cost me R1000. If the Stormers have 6 home games it is going to cost me R6K. If I own or lease a hospitality suite at Newlands it cost me more per guest than what it costs for a ticket in the stands. 4 x season tickets (corners of Grand & Railway stand) R2500 x 4 = R10K. This is to watch rugby at a dilapidated stadium!

    • Barry

      Had not been to Newlands for a while and was shocked, this past Saturday, at how much it was in need of an upgrade.

    • Herman Schroder?

      And c..p rugby, lol. Cheers.

  • Chris Mouton

    What the hell is going on these days? Are people losing their minds?? To expect Rassie to coach the Boks, Bulls and be the Director of SA rugby is a terrible idea. Up the dosage, Jake.

    Cancelling the national contracts is one of the dumbest ideas SARU could ever come up with. It will tank South African rugby completely!

  • Brian Jackwitch

    I think it’s a ludicrous idea. Rassie already has 2/3’s of his squad as WP or ex WP players. We will then see a squad made up of Bulls and Stormers players.
    Using Micheal Cheika as an example of this working is rather disengenuis. Maybe it worked early in his career, which coincided with a world cup year. Currently Cheika’ s career is hanging on a thread.
    I agree with his sentiments regarding contracts. Central contracting of players like Ireland and New Zealand do, is the way to go. Give the players an incentive to stay in SA, with overseas based players chosen only if there is no depth in that position. Or if the person is head and shoulders above the locally based players, like Faf de Klerk (whose game has improved since going overseas).

  • Chris

    Victor Matfield needs to come through the ranks like they do with their coaches in NZ.
    Start with a junior or versity team and move from there based on your success rate, not your name. Coaching is a completely different skill set than playing.

    Have a look at this guy’s analysis of coaching in SA vs. NZ and tell me if Matfield would get a fastlane to SR coach in that system.


  • Nick

    Is it a fact that rassie will coach the bulls? Or is it just a bit of speculative banter and factually compromised opinion from old jake?
    I’m probably not up to date here, but I’ve not read anywhere that rassie is to coach the bulls.

    Will we see rassie working with our provincial teams? Which he already does?
    Jake wouldn’t know. Nor would he be consulted.

  • Barry

    Silly idea in a WC year. More than anyone, Jake should know that! Bulls need to pull finger on the coach appointment – we’re almost into preseason!

  • albert Hoffmann

    Rassie should coach WP, since 90% of his boks come from there, then he can coach his favourite favourites all year round. He would be like a pig in the mud. They could even change the green and gold to blue stripes. Close all the other franchises ( cause there is no need for them under rassie ) and we can all shout for the blue and white striped boks!

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