'Life's going on as per normal': Absent Erasmus still an influence
Jacques Nienaber has given an insight into how much influence Rassie Erasmus is still having on the Springboks even though he hasn’t travelled to the Gold Coast in Australia for their remaining matches in the Rugby Championship. Facing a misconduct charge from World Rugby due to his criticism of the match officials in the wake of the first Lions series Test in Cape Town on July 24, South African director of rugby Erasmus decided not to take the 11,600km trip to Brisbane with Nienaber and his squad when they departed on August 26.
SA Rugby outlined that Erasmus could yet link up with the Springboks squad near the end of the Championship, which concludes with back-to-back matches versus the All Blacks following the upcoming double-header versus the Wallabies.
In the meantime, though, the under-fire boss is still having his say on team affairs, according to Nienaber, who used his team announcement media conference on Wednesday to outline the current dynamic in their director of rugby/head coach relationship even though they are at the moment based on different continents.
“From my side, I had a conversation (with Rassie) ten, 15 minutes ago,” he said after naming a starting XV to face Australia showing seven changes from the team that defeated Argentina on August 21. “The key thing between myself and Rassie on a personal level is that we operate a little bit differently than the normal director of rugby, head coach. Even when he was head coach, I was an assistant coach.
“We operate a little bit differently and the best way to describe that is we are not confined by our job titles. Being director of rugby almost puts you in a box and you operate in that scope, but we don’t work like that. We know between the two of us, I have got certain responsibilities and Rassie has got certain responsibilities but in all my responsibilities he gives input.
The 6/2 forwards/backs bench split is nothing unusual for the Springboks but their cover for next Sunday on the Gold Coast has given their bomb squad a strange-looking twist#RugbyChampionship #Springboks #AUSvRSA
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 8, 2021
“Not only him but the other coaching staff, the medical staff as well and vice-versa with Rassie, he will have certain aspects that he is responsible for but I will give him input. In that sense, it sounds weird but our life is going on between myself and him as per normal. He is engaging with our team as per normal. The one positive about Covid is that technology has made the world small. You can be inside somebody else’s living room within ten seconds. We go through the same weekly programme and structure that we would have done if he was here (in Australia) and hats off to him in terms of almost flipping his day and night around to fit in with our schedule… for me literally sitting here it’s business as usual in terms of our working relationship.”
Sunday’s match is the first for the Springboks away from home since their November 2019 World Cup final win over England in Japan, but it’s not their first without Erasmus present with them in the flesh. He wasn’t with us the week of the first Argentina Test and there were certain days (during the Lions) he wouldn’t go to the team,” continued Nienaber.
“Let’s say, he has got director of rugby stuff that he has got to adhere to, sometimes he won’t go with us to training sessions, he won’t travel with us on the bus to Test matches on the day. He will come a little bit later because he has got some stuff that he is responsible for from a director of rugby point of view.
“He has been with us the majority of the time but there have been aspects where he hasn’t been part of. That Test match against Argentina, he wasn’t there the whole week but he was with us virtually online. But this will be the first time he is not with us on tour since 2018 that we have been travelling together.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 5, 2021
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