PRETORIA – South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander has praised Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus for exceeding the organization’s targets, adding there will be no additional pressure on him when he selects his 31-man Rugby World Cup squad on Aug. 26.
Erasmus serves not only as Springboks coach, but also as director of rugby for all national teams and through that position has assisted in bringing through players of color in all age-groups, putting him four years ahead of schedule.
“Rassie knows what to do, it is not necessary for us to remind him of transformation,” Alexander was quoted as saying by Network24.
“He is mature enough to fulfil his mandates and so far he has exceeded our expectations. So no, there won’t be any pressure on him.
“Our run-on XV will in most games have the desired number of black players. In fact, because our players come through naturally and based on merit, we are actually beyond that desired number.”
He added: “Our plan was for 2023, but at this stage, there are four black captains in our national teams.”
Erasmus has been set a target of 50 percent black players on his match-day squads of 23 throughout 2019, though it is unclear what the consequences of missing this mark would be.
SA Rugby wants to make the Springboks more representative of the demographic of South Africa having come under pressure from government in a sport that was considered the symbol of whites during apartheid.
Alexander also went on to praise Erasmus for his turnaround of the team, which won only 11 of 25 tests in the two years after the 2015 World Cup, but will go into the 2019 edition as the Rugby Championship winner for the first time in a decade.
“Rassie started with a Bok team that wasn’t really established, but he changed the culture of the team,” Alexander said.
“Players play for the people and you can clearly see that they play for him. Rassie brought us back and the team is performing again, and the impact of that should not be underestimated.”
Alexander also believes that the pressure on the Springboks to be successful is far greater than South Africa’s other national sides.
“Other national teams underperform at big tournaments and there’d be no pressure on them,” he said. “A week after the Proteas came back from the Cricket World Cup in England, all was forgiven.
“When we came back from the 2015 World Cup (where they finished third), a commission of inquiry was launched into the team’s performance. There is always more pressure on the rugby team.”