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Rassie Erasmus names his biggest achievement in rugby

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Rassie Erasmus has named his biggest achievement in rugby – and it isn’t winning the Rugby World Cup with South Africa. The South African director of rugby has had his autobiography, which was published just before the start of Rugby World Cup 2023, translated into English and it is now on the shelves in the UK and Ireland ahead of the traditional Christmas uptick in book sales.

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For sure, the 300-page-plus publication titled ‘Rassie – Stories of Life and Rugby’ is a breezy read, starting off with his upbringing in Despatch in the Eastern Cape and continuing right through until prior to the start of Rugby World Cup 2023, which the Springboks won in France to clinch back-to-back titles for the first time.

Despite all his achievements on the international stage as a player and coach, Erasmus stated in the book’s closing chapter that his biggest achievement in the game was the creation in South Africa a decade ago of the elite player development pathway which widened the net on the players that were scouted.

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Reflecting on his career, Erasmus concluded: “My biggest achievement has been the creation of the EPD pathway. I get immense pleasure from watching young players, who might otherwise not have had opportunities, become Springboks and play in a World Cup final.

“I remember going to Border with Jacques (Nienaber) to help their coach in 2013 and we saw this young centre, Lukhanyo Am. I told Jacques we had to keep him on our radar. Six years later, he was winning the World Cup. Those are the moments that stay with me.

“I often get accused of being a political animal, doing the bidding of my political masters, because of the way I handled transformation and selected my Springbok teams. Let me be very clear – not once in my Springbok coaching career has anyone ever told me who to select based on political considerations.

“My selections have been my free choice, in consultation with my assistant coaches. I can almost hear people who want to believe I play political games shouting ‘Bulls***’ when they read this. I can’t change their minds.

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“I’ve tried, but I realise some people don’t want to know the facts. I’m being honest when I say I made Siya (Kolisi) captain and picked a group of young black players against England (in 2018), not because I had to make up quota numbers but because they were the right players for the job. And without question, they all proved themselves worthy of their selection.

“I did the groundwork to fix rugby all those years ago with the introduction of the EPD pathway. When it started producing fruit, I didn’t have to worry about transformation targets because the right players were ready for the big time.

“Transformation is not a matter of white player out, black player in. It’s about fair and equal opportunities, but first we had to create those opportunities.”

Erasmus added: “I take great pride in watching how rugby has changed from being supported by a minority of people in South Africa to a sport embraced by all its people. Rugby has shown how South Africans, no matter what race we are, what language we speak, or what background we come from, can all work together. We can beat countries more powerful and richer than ours if we stand together and use all our resources.

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“I look back on my rugby life, with its achievements and its mistakes, with a degree of satisfaction. I played in big Test matches and I coached in even bigger ones. I hope my lasting contribution is having provided opportunities to people who stepped up and took them. Anyone can play rugby if they are just given the chance.

“You can be a boy from Bishops in Cape Town, Grey College in Bloemfontein, or Paul Roos Gym in Stellenbosch. You can be a boy from Hoërskool Brackenfell near Kraaifontein, Jim Mvabaza Senior Secondary in King William’s Town (now Qonce), or Ntyatyambo Primary in Zwide. Or you can be a boy from Hoërskool Despatch in Despatch.”

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Comments

71 Comments
J
Jon 221 days ago

Confirming Despatch is a shit-hole—congrats Rassie on getting out

B
Bob Marler 221 days ago

There’s a Kant in our midst. A big one. Massive one. What a Kant.

N
Nigel 221 days ago

No mention of his clown of the decade award for his cry baby social media bleats I take it.

N
Nigel 221 days ago

Good to see that World Rugby have admitted that Smith's try should have been allowed to stand (the knock on which occurred 4 phases before the try cannot be sanctioned in terms of their rules which allows officials to go back only two phases). In addition they admit that the officials got it wrong in not awarding NZ a penalty for de Klerk's refused to put the ball in a stable scrum. Any true SA rugby fan should be hanging their heads in embarrassment now.

P
Philou 221 days ago

Liam, please put in diacritics where necessary. It’s ‘Hoërskool’, not ‘Hoerskool’. The latter would translate as ‘prostitute school’. Sigh, it looks like more people need Afrikaans lessons.

N
Ninjin 221 days ago

Best coach in the world!

D
David 221 days ago

What a Champion! Sorry, Double Champion!!

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