Then, the Rugby Championship came around and Erasmus’ rush defence had taken on a new edge
Often, when a new coach comes into a professional rugby set up, fans are looking for tangible results through a winning percentage. In the case of coach Rassie Erasmus, the results have actually not been that impressive at all; he has just over a 50 percent win record, but his influence is quite visible.
In saying that, some of Erasmus’ directives have been easy to spot, but also easy to question. The coach has never been afraid of talking his mind, or backing himself, and since the first game against England, the former Springbok has not strayed away from his defensive blueprint.
Those who recall England’s tour to South Africa will remember the English rounding the Bok defence around the wings with consummate ease. Erasmus had selected true diamonds in the rough in Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi, the current Bok wings, and they were easily found out in defence because they would rush up on the incoming fullback or outside centre, often leaving the opposition wing an easy run in for a try.
A new edge
However, Erasmus was happy to stick with this rush defence, stating that this wings could learn his plan and execute it to perfection. Then, the Rugby Championship came around and Erasmus’ rush defence had taken on a new edge.
Faf de Klerk was influential in the Boks’ attack, but opposition scrumhalves and flyhalves were left immensely frustrated because the blonde menace would time his defensive run to perfection and shut down the opponent with man and ball – clearly another Erasmus ploy. Under Erasmus, the Boks’ defensive effort showed incredible ability and potential through the Rugby Championship – but, it was also high risk, for high reward. This became very evident against Scotland on Saturday.
The entire rush defence effort was taken to another level against Scotland. Individuals were happy to take the risk and initiate spot tackles but as a collective, the rush defensive line was devastating.
In saying that, having six or seven players rushing up in a line together is hard to get right 100 percent of the time, and Scotland realised that. Ironically, it was former Stormer Huw Jones who took advantage of this fact as the Scots were happy to pass far back, in order to go forward.
South Africa rushed their defence, but Scotland kept passing behind until the line staggered, leaving a gap for Jones to exploit.
This led to a try, and also hamstrung the Bok scramble defensive effort as most of them were on the front line.
Still, what needs to be praised is that Erasmus has been trying to improve this defensive plan since is first game in charge, and has not drifted away from it. Erasmus is building something, and should be afforded the chance to make some mistakes along the way.