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Erasmus sanctions won't halt Springboks' march from good to great

By Neil de Kock
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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The heavy sanctions handed down by World Rugby to Springbok Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus seems quite harsh to me.

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The governing body is obviously sending out a message that what Erasmus did is not going to be tolerated. Had they let Erasmus get away with a slap on the wrists, they would perhaps have opened themselves up to something similar happening again. By World Rugby setting quite a harsh precedent upfront, I feel the rest of the world out there will stand up and take notice.

I don’t think World Rugby is wrong in terms of the outcome of the case, but it took a very long time to reach a decision. The timing of the verdict’s release wasn’t ideal for anybody and the truth of the matter is that it detracted from what was an important contest between England and South Africa.

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SA Rugby will exercise their rights to appeal the sanctions brought against them and Erasmus. There is no doubt that the appeal process will take another age. World Rugby took four months to bring forward the sanctions because it didn’t want to mess it up as it was such a sensitive subject. Having a World Cup-winning coach/Director of Rugby pulled in front of a disciplinary panel was a first of its kind, having not happened before in the past.

I think the Erasmus ruling sets a precedent; otherwise it can become a free-for-all. Dave Rennie came out on the weekend and was furious with referee Mike Adamson and the match officials regarding some decisions that went against Australia. If we dial it back, rugby is all about respecting officials and the game. But there’s a fine line and you can understand why directors of rugby, coaches and people involved at the highest level get frustrated.

In light of the Erasmus ban, Rennie will likely be hauled in front of a disciplinary panel for his tirade.

I’m no legal expert, but I would like to believe that some good will come of the appeal from a South African perspective. However, on the other hand World Rugby might well dig their heels in and say, “The punishment has to fit the crime.”

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If they are steadfast in their belief that the crime justified the punishment, Erasmus will have to see out the full match day ban which runs until 30 September 2022. I’m of the view that Rassie will continue to impact the Springbok squad as much as he can – with the appeal process unfolding – but much will be about planning and preparing for next season.

The Springboks ended the 2021 season with an 8-5 win-loss ratio. I believe the Springboks are a better team than their 61.5 percent win record suggests. If you’d asked me offhand what their win ratio was, I would have said it felt like over 70 percent. It’s down to performance and the fact that every time the Boks take to the field there is a belief that they can win.

Despite what the detractors say, for me, it’s a very good Springbok team that is bordering on a great one. There has been consistency in selection and some outstanding players who have proven themselves at the top level.

The Springboks are deserving of finishing the season as the top-ranked side. However, I don’t think it means much to the players and coaches to be called first in the world. It’s the form you’re displaying at that time and comes down to winning Test matches and series. It’s great to finish the season on top, but I don’t think it’s going to make a difference to the team.

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They will be chuffed with what has happened this year under the circumstances they played. The way they fought and matched certain opposition was outstanding. Looking ahead to the 2022 season, I have no doubt that Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber will have their finger on the pulse in terms of how they want to play. They will need to keep up with the trends in terms of how the game is refereed and how best to earn a result.

I’m of the opinion that the Boks need to stick as far as possible to their strengths – namely their set-piece, aerial game, defence and physicality. The men in green and gold must then layer certain aspects of their game such as their attack and counter-attack in order to take them to the next level.

In terms of the top six teams in the world, at the moment anybody can beat anybody. It’s what we want in world rugby instead of one or two teams being so far ahead and seemingly unbeatable. The way the top six teams are performing at present is what we want to see and it’s going to be a mouth-watering prospect heading to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France if it continues in this vein.

Following an 11-year career with Saracens, which saw him earn 264 caps, Neil de Kock now works in the rugby division at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa. De Kock, who featured in 10 Test matches for the men in green and gold, provides RugbyPass with expert opinion and insight focusing on the southern hemisphere sides and, in particular, the Springboks.

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Erasmus sanctions won't halt Springboks' march from good to great

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