“The players understand the principle they know they play with the supporters’ hearts, their emotions, their happiness; it’s a big responsibility"
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has credited his players for the change in fortunes of the team following their Rugby Championship triumph at the weekend.
The Boks wrapped up the title in emphatic fashion with a solid win against Argentina in Salta after previously beating Australia in Joburg and drawing to New Zealand in Wellington. It was the Boks’ first title triumph since the 2009 season.
“To win the trophy was a part of our plan, but even if we didn’t win it, I’d have been happy. We’ve grown in so many areas, on and off the field in terms of leadership and ownership, and all credit must go to the players,” said Erasmus when the Boks arrived back in South Africa.
“The players understand the principle they know they play with the supporters’ hearts, their emotions, their happiness; it’s a big responsibility.
“The players have been hungry for success. We as coaches can only put structures and plans in place, but it’s the players who implement the finer details in the game.
“It’s great to have won, but these are baby steps. We have to keep growing, keep striving for consistency in performance, in each area of the game. I believe we will have to be 20 percent better come the knockout stages of the World Cup for us to have a realistic chance.”
Erasmus added it was important to win well in Argentina, something he was seeking to do again this weekend in Pretoria when Los Pumas visit for the Boks’ final Test before they head to Japan.
“Winning the Rugby Championship has given us momentum, something we must look to build on this weekend, and self-belief. If we didn’t win this last weekend people would have said there is a lack of consistency, something we’ve battled with in recent years, so we’ve ticked a few boxes, but still have a lot to work on.”
Erasmus confirmed he would pick a new-look team for this weekend’s Test, including bringing regular captain Siya Kolisi back into the mix. Kolisi hasn’t played for the Boks this season, having picked up a knee injury during Super Rugby, but featured for Western Province in the Currie Cup last weekend.
“We won’t fast-track him into Test rugby, but we are desperate to have him involved in the World Cup,” said Erasmus.
It seems time has however caught up to injured men like Warren Whiteley, Damian Willemse and Aphiwe Dyantyi who now look set to miss out on the 31-man squad bound for Japan and the World Cup.
“Some guys are in a race against time. Damian will probably play a few minutes this week, Aphiwe might play next week and Warren will now struggle to make the squad. He has had injuries and suffered setback after setback.
“You can’t take a guy to the World Cup with no game-time.”