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No Rassie, no reason to panic for Bok coach: ‘We operate a bit differently’

Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus.

Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus.

  • Rassie Erasmus might not be with the Springboks in Australia, but national head coach Jacques Nienaber says that it is “business as usual” in terms of their working relationship. 
  • Erasmus, the country’s current director of rugby, remained in South Africa last month as the Boks headed across the Indian Ocean to play in the 2021 Rugby Championship. 
  • It is the first time the Springboks have toured without Erasmus since 2018 when he joined as head coach. 

The Springboks are set to take on the Wallabies on Sunday (12:05, SA time) at the Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, and while Rassie Erasmus has not been physically with the team since they arrived in Australia, he has been checking in regularly.

It is perhaps not conventional, but then very little has been when it comes to the relationship between Erasmus and Nienaber over the years.

“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 and head coach would,” said Nienaber after announcing his team on Thursday.

“Even when he was head coach and I was assistant coach, we operated a little bit differently.

“The best way to describe that is that we probably aren’t confined by our job titles. Being director of rugby almost puts you in a box and you operate within that scope, but we don’t work like that.

“We know between the two of us and the team understands that I’ve got certain responsibilities and Rassie has certain responsibilities, but in all my responsibilities he gives input and so do the coaching staff, management staff and it works vice versa.

“In that sense, our lives are going on as normal.”

Nienaber revealed that Erasmus, in his role as director, had missed several Springbok training sessions and team meetings over the last few months, including the entire week in the build-up to the first Test against Argentina in Gqeberha.

“The one positive about Covid is that technology has made the world small, and you can be inside somebody’s living room within 10 seconds,” Nienaber added.

“We go through the same weekly structure that we would have done if he was here. Hats off to him for almost flipping his day and night around to almost fit in with our schedule.

“Obviously, he is not on the pitch, but he will be part of us during the day when he can join us. For me, it’s business as usual in terms of our working relationship.

“He wasn’t with us the week before the Argentina Test or the week before the second Test against the British Lions.

“There are certain days where he won’t go with the team when he has director of rugby stuff he needs to do.

“It will be the first time he has not been with us on tour since 2018, but it will not be the first time he has not been with us for a Test week.”

Erasmus, meanwhile, is awaiting the outcome of a World Rugby hearing following his criticisms of Australian referee Nic Berry after the first Test between the Boks and the British Lions in July.  

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