SA Rugby’s new Director of Rugby-slash-Bok coach, Rassie Erasmus is expected to bring the Boks back from the brink and restore South Africa as a global force over the next six years. The former Bok flank would do well to mimic some of the methods employed by Ireland’s Joe Schmidt.
Ireland coach since 2013, Schmidt has assembled arguably that country’s greatest side of all-time. This year’s Grand Slam was Ireland’s third Six Nations title under his stewardship, to go along with wins over Australia, South Africa and that inaugural victory over New Zealand in Chicago in 2016.
With experienced heads like Rory Best, Jonathan Sexton, Connor Murray, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls leading the charge, Ireland has reached new heights. Forget O’Driscoll and O’Connell – Joey Carbery, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and Jordan Larmour are the new names on the block, looking to lead Ireland into a period of unprecedented success.
Schmidt’s blooding of these youngsters in the Test arena was a long-term investment. By the time the next two World Cups roll by, each of them will be ready to slip seamlessly into Ireland’s starting XV; in fact, some already command starting berths.
The potential of Schmidt’s Ireland is quite frightening and, after their win in Chicago, they will be more than just a little confident come next year’s global showpiece.
While many have slammed his tactics as ‘boring’, Schmidt will merely point to his bloated trophy cabinet as justification for his processes. His low-risk, stop-start philosophy, built on an exceptional set-piece and orchestrated by his world-class halfback pairing is very tough to stop. Be afraid, Steve Hansen. Be very afraid.
And so, Erasmus, facing a three-Test series against England at the onset of his quest to rebuild the Boks into a side capable of challenging for titles again, must go the Schmidt route – he needs to lay out an efficient, clearly-defined game plan and select players that can carry out his plans.
That means finding a tighthead prop that can execute a wrap-around pass like Tadgh Furlong, a winger that can chip-and-chase like Jacob Stockdale and a flyhalf that can nail last-minute drop-goals like Sexton.
Erasmus must be consistent with his selections and build continuity and depth ahead of the 2023 World Cup, while backing youngsters to come in and fulfill their roles with aplomb. Scrapping SA Rugby’s misplaced foreign-player policy would be a start, while reintroducing the likes of Frans Steyn into the Bok fold will be pivotal.
Next year’s edition may come too soon, but implementing structures similar to Schmidt’s is certain to pay off in the long run.
After the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Erasmus is likely to appoint a new national head coach and revert to his role as Director of Rugby. It is imperative that whoever he chooses sticks to essence of Schmidt’s approach.
If the Boks finish as runners-up to New Zealand in Pool B in Japan in 2019 they are most likely to face Ireland in the quarter-finals.
They will be hard-pressed to progress beyond that point, but that should be put into perspective – it will take time and many broken eggs before Erasmus builds a side capable of competing at the same level as Ireland and New Zealand’s level. But boy, oh boy, it will be worth the wait!
Goosen is a Journalism student at Rhodes University who would rather take a Naas Botha drop-kick to the balls than see England win the next World Cup. Follow him on Twitter: @ShaunGoosie
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