We have to adapt or die a slow death - Rassie

rugby09 July 2024 14:04| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Rassie Erasmus © Gallo Images

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says that the intended changes to the game-plan that have become a talking point around the series against Ireland have to happen or his team will be left behind.

With former All Black flyhalf Tony Brown as attack coach, the Boks gave an early glimpse of what is intended in the 27-20 win over the Irish in the first test in Pretoria last weekend.

After naming an unchanged team for Saturday’s return game at Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Erasmus indicated that he was pleased with the direction his team was heading.

“From our side we are definitely a team that is trying new things,” said Erasmus.

“This is a good time to do it. It was what we were unable to do in 2020, at a similar stage of that World Cup cycle, because of Covid. It is not just adaptations to the attack that we are working on, but defence as well.

“We need to try different things to evolve and to stay within the law changes that have come in. We have to adapt and change or we will die a slow death.”

Erasmus felt that his team’s expansive approach had surprised Ireland, but only early on in the game.

“If we did catch them out, I think it was in that first try. After that Ireland adapted. They also surprised us, that one try that they scored from the middle of a ruck was really good and surprised us.”


Erasmus has been cast as a bit of a villain by some sections of the Irish media, but at the team announcement press conference on Tuesday he showed a lot of respect to his opponents and said they were a team that had had the Boks’ number.

“We as a group, since we got together as a group for the first time in 2018, have lost to Ireland by narrow margins and this week it was close again. If Ireland had managed to take the ball through just a few more phases at Loftus the game could have been drawn,” said the Bok coach.

“We had a lot of well structured play that could have ended up in tries but didn’t. If we win the second game on Saturday it will win us the series and that will be big for us. When we play the All Blacks it is nice to win, when we play Wales it is nice to win, and of course it is good to beat Ireland, who are No 2 in the world.

“Ireland have been peaking and ruling the Six Nations pretty much since the previous World Cup. But if we do make it 2-0 on Saturday and win the series it will not just be satisfying for me, it will be satisfying for the whole nation. Ireland are a quality team and they have our number currently.”


The strength of the opposition meant that there was no question, according to Erasmus, of there being any experimental changes to his selection for the second test.

He hinted though that an experimental team might go into action the following week against Portugal in Bloemfontein.

Apart from wanting to have a look at new players, he also recognises that he needs to give some of the other players in the wider group, who have been part of the Bok efforts in the recent past, some game time.

“We want to win so that we can build momentum. Once you have momentum it is easier to try different things,” said Erasmus.

“We had some niggles and bumps and bruises but fortunately we didn’t need to make any changes and we have the same team for two games in a row.

Next week guys like Lukhanyo Am and Canan Moodie will play against Portugal. We are trying to get some momentum and luckily we are injury free so there is no need to change the team.”

Erasmus did say though that there was enough depth in most positions in the squad for him to be able to build depth by spreading the selection net without compromising the Bok performance and without it being a big risk.

“When you’ve got a fresh and fit Jaden Hendrikse available again, and with Morne van den Berg also part of the squad and Cobus Reinach also back, then you’ve got five proper scrumhalves,” he explained.

“At flyhalf we have Handre Pollard and Manie Libbok and we’ve given an opportunity to Jordan Hendrikse and we also have Sacha (Feinberg-Mngomezulu). Damian Willemse is on the mend and will be back soon. At centre we have several players, like Andre (Esterhuizen) and Sacha, and we also have depth at outside centre.

“I am trying to give guys who can compete at the highest level the experience that will make it easier for them to slot in later. But for now it is just about getting some momentum.”

To ensure the players who will be called up for the Portugal game in Bloemfontein are ready, Erasmus is set to release “eight or nine” players to play in the Currie Cup this weekend.

“I have only heard about two Ireland injuries for this week, which is normal. We expected one or two guys to struggle after Loftus, but it didn’t happen.

“We were really pleased someone like Malcolm (Marx) got through the game, but if we get momentum (by winning the series) we can give people like Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) and maybe Andre-Hugo (Venter) a chance to expand our group of hookers.”