Rassie’s glass is half full for now, so watch out Wallabies

Sport

Rassie’s glass is half full for now, so watch out Wallabies

Bok coach has won three of his six matches in charge, but heaven help him if he slips up any further

Journalist

Worse than Rudolf Straeuli, Harry Viljoen and Jake White, but on a par with Allister Coetzee and Heyneke Meyer.
Coach Rassie Erasmus’s record in his first six Tests in charge of the Springboks reads like three of one, and a quarter of a dozen of the other. He has a 50% win record, which pales in comparison to that of fellow post-isolation coaches Kitch Christie and Nick Mallett. Both had unblemished records after their first six Tests.
Of the other coaches who were in charge for six Tests or more, only Ian McIntosh, Andre Markgraaff, Carel du Plessis (two wins) have a poorer return. John Williams’s sole win while he was in charge of the Boks in five Tests, in 1992, came against France in Lyon.
Most Bok coaches assume the position on the back foot. After all, they get offered the gig on the back of their most recent predecessor’s failings. The notable exception was Peter de Villiers in 2008, while Markgraaff perhaps put too many World Cup winners out to pasture once he wielded the big stick.Erasmus’s brief is no different to the bulk of his predecessors who were charged with the restoration of Springbok rugby. Despite the already daunting prospect Erasmus chose to embark on a path that potentially offers long-term gain over short-term pain.
Erasmus predicted a bumpy ride. He underlined the need for “brave decisions” in selection  as he tries to “build capacity” in the lead-up to next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The long-term gain of spreading game time among inexperienced players may be obvious, but Erasmus may increasingly come to appreciate that time is a commodity Springbok coaches have in short supply.
Cynics might argue Erasmus has a readymade excuse with his “lambs to the slaughter” selection policy and that his six-year contract brings the kind of reassurance his predecessors could only dream of.
He introduced 16 players to the Test arena in June as the first phase in having a broad range of options for the next RWC. With three wins from six Tests no hard conclusions were arrived at in June, but after two more in the Rugby Championship a picture is starting to emerge.
Six-year contract notwithstanding, he will have to deploy a team that resembles what he deems to be his best for the clashes in Brisbane against the Wallabies and in Wellington against the All Blacks.
Defeat, especially in the first against the already wounded Wallabies, will leave SA Rugby having to face up to an inconvenient truth ahead of the Test against the all-conquering All Blacks at a venue where the Boks haven’t vanquished the hosts since 1998.The coach who replaced Allister Coetzee will by then have a win percentage of just 42, a figure that is frankly too ghastly to contemplate.

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