Rassie in rugby paradise – Jake

Jake White

Rassie Erasmus must be the envy of every coach in the world. In South Africa, he’s Mr Rugby.

SA Rugby’s board has apppointed Erasmus the director of rugby and Springbok head coach, and they’ve given him an unprecedented six-year contract.

In this game, if you can take a job where the board wants you, the CEO is your mate and you get everything you ask for, it’s like you’ve died and gone to heaven. It doesn’t get better than that.

From someone who has been in that situation I can say that he’s a very fortunate guy. I can’t think of another professional sports coach that’s been given that kind of freedom and backing – the All Blacks, who have a 90-percent win rate, didn’t give Steve Hansen a six-year deal after he won the World Cup.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’m very jealous – Allister Coetzee, Nick Mallett, Rudolf Straeuli and Ian McIntosh must feel the same way.

Looking back now, I lost my job as Bok coach because I challenged SA Rugby to allow me to pick my own management team, have the final say on selections, bring back overseas-based players and I asked for a longer contract to build a legacy. These were things that upset the decision makers, and were also the things that those former Bok coaches fought for and were denied.

In a lot of ways, it’s a sign of real progress that the Bok coach is now getting what he asks for and you have to give SA Rugby credit for making those changes.

However, I would like to know what has happened to the director of rugby role, which they said was incredibly important – so much so that they scrambled to reacquire Erasmus from Munster. Now that he’s back, they’ve also given him the national coaching job and he’s admitted that he’ll spend 70 percent of his time on the Springboks.

Between 2012 and 2016, SA Rugby paid the same director of rugby to spend 100 percent of his time putting systems in place and streamlining pathways for all of the national teams, except the Springboks. Then, during Coetzee’s term, SA Rugby realised that they actually needed a director of rugby and they were very pleased to bring back the guy who had left the job 18 months earlier. And now it’s okay that the director of rugby only spends 30 percent of his time in that role.

Either SA Rugby has been deceitful about the reasons why they originally brought Erasmus back, or they’ve massively oversold the importance of the director of rugby role. So which one is it?

If they genuinely thought they needed a director of rugby, then surely they wouldn’t leave that post in the hands of a man who can only devote less than a third of his time to the job?

David Nucifora is Ireland’s full-time director of rugby, Scott Johnson is Scotland’s full-time director of rugby, and New Zealand’s five Super Rugby coaches are contracted directly to the national union, so they all report to head office.

SA Rugby can’t claim that Erasmus is doubling up due to financial constraints because, after being approached by them last year, I offered to fill the vacant post of director of rugby for free, only to eventually be told that I wasn’t part of their plans.

The reason Erasmus went to Munster was because Coetzee, like Heyneke Meyer before him, refused to accept a structure where Erasmus had jurisdiction over the Springboks.

Wouldn’t it be extremely ironic if Erasmus has now been handed both roles because, as Bok coach, he doesn’t want to have a director of rugby looking over his shoulder?

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Fred.

    Rassie is making a huge mistake by getting involved with the politicians at SARU! He will hardly do better than Coetzee did, since he cannot select his own team! With the quota system in place, and getting worse every year, Rassie is planning his own bad name. I will bet anyone, for anything, that Rassie, under the quota system, will only win about 50% of games with the Bok team, which is hardly better than Allister Coetzee did, but once you get a bad name (caused by the quota system) he will never recover from it. Everyone will always point out that he hardly did better the Coetzee. If Coetzee could select his own team, he probably would have done better too!

    • Derek Thomas

      The old argument that quotas result in a drop in standard doesn’t apply any more – there are now plenty of non-white players worthy of being springboks. Don’t worry though – leave it to Rassie, he’s astute enough to spot all the good talent, he’s not worried about 50%.

      • Hugo

        The rugby facts speak fir themselves … the more quotas has been forced on SA rugby teams , the lower the standards had to become to accommodate black players. This is proved by the declining competitiveness of our SR TEAMS especially against NZ teams. Oz is so weak right now yet we can hardly send a team there and come away with a win. You don’t win against 15 best players with 9 who gave to carry 6 passengers picked on pigmentation superiority.

    • john

      Quota,qouta, quota….yadda yadda yadda….blah blah blah…qouta qouta qouta….all i heard.

    • Louis

      Fred, you clearly have nothing to add to the discussion, so rather remain quiet. “Ledige pyp hou toe jou kraan, dan sien ons jou dalk as ‘n volle aan.” (CJ Langenhoven)

      • Bokfan

        Mooi Louis! Ek stem saam

  • Petrus Goeieman

    Strange that the so-called “quota players” are the best players In both the Springboks and provincial teams.
    So what is the issue ? Or is there an issue ?

    These quota comments are really getting boring!
    It always sound like they are coming from persons who remained behind in the bush!

    • Derek Thomas

      Agreed Petrus, we are in 2018

    • Johan

      I fully agree that some of our best players are so called quota players. But there is a quota system so they are not “so called quotas”. It is unfair to them. Given that they are so good why not abolish the quota system. Reality is that some quotas really do not deserve their place in a team on merit. International teams would expose that quickly and the whole team will suffer. We do not need a quota system.

      • Morne

        Stem dat kwotas moet verander. Dink rassie gaan goed doen. Hy sal die regte spankeuse maak. AC kom die kwota reggekry het as hy die regte mense gekies het. Noem 1 mpimpi was by kings wat gesukkel het en tog het hy geshine

      • Leo

        Winner over here folks.

      • Derek Thomas

        Best approach for Rassie: ignore colour and treat the players accordingly, 50% will just happen

      • Bokfan

        Unfortunately, while it is not a perfect system and players apparently dont like it, it is I believe necessary, especially at school, varsity , CC and SR level (at least). The majority of coaches in South Africa are white. Even though the majority of those (I hope and believe) are not consciously anti-black players, humans have a tendency to identify with colleagues and friends who are similar to them. This we cannot deny. So, sometimes sub-consciously, if 2 players are equally talented, the coach will go for the player he most identifies with. Because we trust ourselves and feel our own viewpoints, morals and culture are good ones (we chose them after all), there can be some bias. It is very important that potentially brilliant players who differ from the coach get a chance.

        I will make up a generalised, but somewhat realistic example. A young black player listens to hip hop, likes fancy cars, watches soccer (he wears a Real Madrid shirt to the team dinner) and doesnt really speak Afrikaans. How does the average SA coach (40 years old, church-going, drives a bakkie, listens to Bles Bridges :-) ) find something to talk about and something in common? Neither side is right or wrong, but there should be incentive for the coach to sometimes give the player not like him a chance.

        Then there will be some surprises for the coach when that player repays his selection and the coach might look at the next young player differently. Once this becomes regular, then there is no need for a quota system.

        However, personally, I do feel the quota system should be done away with for the Boks, because:
        1. The black players in the Boks are there on merit
        2. It will increase the trust between the players
        3. Black players are 100% sure they are there for their skills and talents
        4. The strongest team can be picked
        5. Due to the evolving demographics in SA Rugby, enough black players would be chosen anyway for the Boks (in the near future I believe).

        Its a complicated issue and not perfect, but its the least of the problems right now in SARU :-)

        • Crucial

          💯 💯 💯 💯 this isthe most eloquent argument for or against quotas I have ever come across

    • stormramp

      You cannot ignore it petrus it was never the case before where politics is digging in areas that does not suit our sport at present. U r rite aswell thr r good black players tht can make the Bokke team but we dont need a few black players we need backup for them. So how many is actually capable of making it to Springbok level. Everything is a process but goverment and Saru needs to work together not force the problem or issue

      • Warren

        Stormramp – would’nt you agree that if black players could not play for the boks before 1994 (even though we had Errol Tobias etc as a token player) that there has ALWAYS been politicking in our sport? Remember BJ Vorster refused to let an English cricket team tour if it included Basil D’oliveira? I am with Bokfan – very well put!

  • Dean

    SA Rugby supporters are the best.

    Jake White writes an article questioning SARU’s appointment processes and structure (or lack thereof).

    First comment: “Quotas”.

    Not an intelligent debate on whether Rassie can fulfill both roles, or whether a DoR is necessary. Quotas.

    Best I tell you.

    • Chef B

      Lol was thinking the same thing…I bet Jake is also reading the comments and thinking:Why the hell did I bother….

  • Barry Smith

    In reality, I don’t think there were any alternatives to the structure they have put together. There are no SR coaches that are obvious choices and few international coaches would be interested nor could we afford them. I expect they are hoping for one of the assistants to grow sufficiently to take over in the fullness of time. For the short term, it is better than it was!

  • Gareth

    Please advise regarding comments and allegations reportedly made by Greame Joffe recently on the following:
    Conflict of interest relating to lawyer and business partner represents both Rassie and SARU?
    IT contract with Saru
    Suppliment supplier to SARU, with Jurrie Roux as partner


  • Kirsten

    The government has demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot govern properly neither can they manage the state owned enterprises properly. Despite this, they insist on prescribing to SA Rugby how to run their affairs.

    There are thousands of young black players coming through the ranks who don’t need a big embarrassing brother to find them a position in top teams…

    Just give it time.

    • Derek Thomas

      This has nothing to do with SOE’s…. and the time is here already

  • Rant

    Blaming the poor recent performances on “quotas” is an emotional response. Stick to facts. Like in 2017 AC completely revamped his coaching team and structures, had several high profile ‘indabas’ and various camps. HE spent a lot of time planning and preparing. In the French series and against Argentina he did well, but the wheel fell off quickly when decent opposition came and showed his coaching for what it was.

    Towards the end of 2017, AC had zero “quota” coaches, and only around 3 “quota” players per squad selected. So the FACTS point to a coaching issue and not any political issue. Facts, not emotions, will help us learn lessons from the recent horror show performances of the Springboks.

    Will “Rassie” be the saviour of Springbok rugby, I don’t know but I really hope he can bring us back from the mediocrity that became the norm under AC. We should all put our cynicism aside and just give it a chance. It could get worse, but then again it could get better. Let’s see.

  • Arch Rautenbach

    There actually a few other questions to be asked. Rassie was already employed by SARU as director of Rugby when he started searching for a new head coach. I’m not sure how hard he searched, or even if the post was advertised, but was there anybody that actually wanted the head coaching job? I mean you get the Springboks in pretty poor shape, the year before a world cup year and with the second best team in the world your first couple of matches (head coach was appointed before the Wales test was scheduled). Then you still have to answer to Rassie and most probably, your coaching team would be laid out for you by him. Would any self respecting coach take those terms other than the one that was busy vacating the post? Did Rassie really have any other option as director of Rugby than to appoint himself head coach?

  • Herchelle

    This is cadre deployment at the highest level and we all know what happens when you appoint you friends. In the previous 18 months Rassie was DOR what did he actually change because all the old structures are all the same.Rugby is not being spread to the black communities and absolutely no development is taking place except if you go to former model c schools.Case and point is the Kings where they only won on match in this years Pro 14 and 90% of the squad is not cut out to play on that level.So we appoint somebody that failed as DOR the previous 18 months to be both DOR and bok coach for next 6 years. Absolutely badness…….but yeah it is nice to have friends in high places

  • Chris Mouton

    Hmm, sour grapes much, Jake? Yes, SARU is a shambles, everybody agrees on that. But Coetzee had to go. He was way out of his depth. Rassie was first and foremost appointed as National Rugby Director. He had a problem though. Which coach would’ve taken the reins less than 2 years before the 2019 World Cup? We don’t know what happened behind the scenes. We don’t know who they contacted or what discussions took place, but in the end Rassie was appointed Bok coach as well. His first priority will be to fix the Boks. They are our biggest rugby export, so we need to fix the Springbok brand. So, obviously the majority of his time will be spent on doing damage control at the Spingboks. But a 6 year deal will at least create the opportunity for continuity. That’s what we want. Doesn’t matter what happened before. The Springboks are in trouble and we need to fix it. That is why I stand behind Rassie. I stood behind Allister at the beginning as well, but we all know how that turned out. So, yes, my money is on Rassie. Time will tell.

    • Billy

      I agree. Jake just can’t accept that we don’t need or want him- even for free.

  • Al

    It seems fairly obvious Rassie will coach the Boks up until afetr the 2019 world cup (approximately 2 years) and then he will step up into the DoR role with one of his assistants (Stick?) as coach for the next 4 years up until the 2023 world cup

  • Nick

    Gareth, you raise some very interesting points about good old fashioned conflict of interest. Can anybody expand on what he says? I mean, who is running the show anyway?

    • Gareth

      Not me, reportedly raised by Greame Joffe – he who had to leave SA apparently because of raising issues similar to these.

      i would love for somebody in the know to comment – but i would guess its just going to be more of the same from the Powers.

      Just a further comment – im not sure how quotas made it into this question,but my 2c would be that if these allegations are true, are SARU etc al (read rugby mafia), not a far bigger threat to SA Rugby?
      Bad management, bad contracts, bad coach selections, bad media management, 0 accountability, etc?

  • Nick

    Sill, Chris Mouton is right. Let’s not forget what an absolute ballsup the Coetzee regime was. And don’t forget, Jake had also ‘instructed’ SARFU to appoint Coetzee as his successor! imagine that!

    Rassie filling both roles is either an opportunity to create synergy and continuity, or a disaster waiting to happen. I am prepared to give Rassie the benefit of the doubt. Very few doubt his ability.

  • Marang

    And that is the problem with our rugby. We should stop our rugby community to refer to black players as quota players. That is a degrading referral. All the black players in the bok squad plays just as hard as the rest. Lets boikot the word “qouta” in rugby

  • Gideon

    Bokfans generalizations is endemic of whats hurting the progress of south african rugby…we need to apply the same negative comments to the shitty white players that continuously get selected irrespective of form.
    Judge players purely on form and the positivity might rub off on your mates… and supporters, players, coaches and the sporting community. Next time you’re at a match go and sit among a group of blacks and get the feel on what they are thinking…you might be suprised to find their comments are based around players form.. irrespective of colour.

    • Groovemonger

      You’ve pretty much nailed it there Gideon. Few Bok supporters have anything constructive to add, If things are rotten in the boardroom, it tends to show on the field. The coach is typically the scapegoat. I wonder what the general feeling would have been if a person of colour was given such sweeping powers as that of the new coach/director of rugby, not that that ever would have happened anyway.

      Rugby has evolved, many Bok supporters unfortunately have not.

      • Warren

        Agreed boys! Nice chat!

  • Rudel du Preez

    As die woorde “Kwotas en Apartheid”nie bestaan het nie dan het ons nie probleme gehad nie.Is Senatla,Africa,Leyds,Galant,Ismael,Jantjies,Mapoe,Mapimpi om net n paar te noem steeds kwotas???Baie van die name sal in my SA span instap

  • Warren

    Mooi Rudel du Preez. Ek stem saam!!!!!!!

  • Warren

    I just want to add: I am new to this site. I removed myself from others because I constantly had to hear about “pasake” etc when guys were angry with AC or Peter de Villiers. This site seems awesome as the comments are largely positive…..I am home!

  • Warren

    Another thing: I grew up watching Springbok Saga with Zandberg Janssen. Lets respect the greats (from all colours) and support our boys and girls as one nation!

  • Cobus Brits

    Jake White still have a lot to offer to SA Rugby. Problem is his rugby knowledge is very intimidating and he has a way of pointing it like a sword. Very few insecure administrators can handle or harness that kind of proposition.
    Above all they are not equipped to be in the position they are as the deal Rassie got is unpresidented and therefor a clear indication of the mess SARU is in.
    I like Rassie a lot but he should never have been in a situation were he is the only ‘real’ candidate to fill the vacating coaching post.

    Choosing ones own team is not always the best and a panel of selectors are always a good thing – if they have a proven selection sucess record.

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