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SA Rugby statement: Rassie Erasmus and the upcoming A team tour

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Fresh from the expiry of his lengthy World Rugby ban, South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has given himself an additional role on the upcoming tour of Europe. While Jacques Nienaber’s Springboks team are playing four Test matches, a schedule which commences versus Ireland in Dublin on November 5, an SA A team will also play games versus Munster and Bristol Bears.

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Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has been appointed to take charge of the A team for those matches and he will be assisted by Junior Springboks coach Bafana Nhleko, Sharks coach Joey Mongalo and Griquas scrum coach Wian du Preez – with SA DoR Erasmus overseeing the coaching for the games at Cork on November 10 and at Ashton Gate on November 17.

Having been charged with misconduct for his behaviour towards match officials during the 2021 Test series against the British and Irish Lions, the resulting punishment for Erasmus included a ban from all match-day activities – including coaching, contact with match officials, and media engagement – until the end of September.

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That suspension is now over and Erasmus, who is free to address the media again in an official capacity, has explained the importance of the upcoming tour with South Africa less than a year out from defending their World Cup title in France next year.

“The SA A matches will have multiple benefits for SA Rugby as it will open the door for some of our top up-and-coming coaches to be exposed to high-level rugby at senior level in a national team set-up, while at the same time allowing us to continue building our player base as look ahead to the Rugby World Cup,” explained Erasmus in an South Africa Rugby media statement, his first official media comments since his ban ended last Friday.

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“This season alone we used over 50 players in our Test matches, which is fantastic as one of our core pillars in the Springboks team is to build squad depth. But with limited playing opportunities for several players and the fact that we lost out on a vital year to build our squad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these matches will be crucial.

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“The closest one can get to playing for the Springboks is the SA A team and we believe these matches will give us a good idea of the coaches and young players within our ranks as well as offer some experienced players the opportunity to return from injury and get back to form as they contest for places with an eye on Rugby World Cup spots.

“Munster are renowned for their status as Irish rugby giants and as we have seen in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, they will test the team to the limit. We expect Bristol to play more of a running game, especially with Pat Lam, a former New Zealand junior and club player and Auckland Blues coach, influencing their style of play. These are going to be challenging matches, which is exactly what we want less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup.”

The Springboks and SA A squads will be announced within the next three weeks. With the Springboks in action against Ireland on November 5, France on November 12, Italy on November 19 and England on November 26, Erasmus and Stick will split their duties between the two teams.

SA A team management
Head coach: Mzwandile Stick
Assistant coaches: Bafana Nhleko, Joey Mongalo, Wian du Preez
Technical analyst: Willie Maree
Operations manager: Zintsika Tashe
Logistics manager: Barry McDonald
Team doctor: Clement Plaatjies
Physiotherapist: Lance Lemmetjies
Conditioning coach: Johan van Wyk

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