Monday 24 April 2017

South African media turn on Munster's potential saviour after Ireland upset the Springboks

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: (L-R) Rassie Erasmus and South Africa's rugby coach Heyneke Meyer during the South African national rugby team training session at St Stithians College on June 11, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: (L-R) Rassie Erasmus and South Africa's rugby coach Heyneke Meyer during the South African national rugby team training session at St Stithians College on June 11, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

When the appointment of Rassie Erasmus as Munster's Director of Rugby was announced, it was generally thought that the southern province had made a very shrewd decision.

Erasmus was hired by Munster from the position of General Manager of High Performance in South African rugby, a role similar to that of David Nucifora's in Ireland.

Although he wasn't coaching the team, Erasmus was ultimately responsible for the performance of the Springboks.

The 43-year-old, who won 36 caps for his country at flanker, appeared to have done a solid job in his native land, with South Africa reaching the World Cup semi-final, where they were narrowly beaten by the All Blacks.

Read more: Stander gets one-week ban as Springboks coach slams Ireland

However, although there were huge highs during Erasmus' time at the top of South African rugby - the Springboks beat the All Blacks two years ago - 2015 proved particularly trying for the national side, with the team losing all three of their Rugby Championship fixtures while also getting shocked by minnows Japan in their World Cup opener.

Last Saturday's test was meant to be the launchpad for the next era of South African rugby - a brutish pack still remained but a new coach and a host of fresh faces in the backline were meant to signal a potential shift in style for the Springboks.

As it transpired, they suffered their first ever loss to Ireland on home soil, going down to a team who were forced to play an hour with 14 men.

Their attack misfired completely, with new players like Lionel Mapoe and Faf de Klerk struggling to make an impact.

It was one of the Springboks' most disappointing days in a long time and naturally, people are now trying to understand what went wrong.

In the aftermath of Ireland's first ever win in South Africa, some journalists are now questioning Erasmus' legacy.

Writing in the Times Live, Craig Ray is very critical of how rugby in the country has developed over the last number of years, and lays a good deal of the blame for the team's stagnation at the incoming Munster boss' door.

"There is no coherent playing strategy and based on the evidence of SA’s national teams in recent seasons‚ the much-vaunted Rugby Department under Rassie Erasmus has been a failure," Ray writes.

"Erasmus is off to join Irish club Munster at the end of the month. When it was announced he was leaving there was a general feeling that SA Rugby was losing one of its greatest minds.

"But results suggest that the Rugby Department is failing at a professional level. Erasmus and his department will point to lack of access to players‚ who are largely coached and nurtured in a provincial environment‚ as a factor in their failure.

"But what is the point of the Rugby Department in that case? Some naysayers will‚ and have‚ tried to blame the Springboks’ problems on transformation‚ which is laughable."

While it is true that the Springboks have stagnated in the last year, Erasmus has put together a stellar body of work throughout his coaching career. He won a first Currie Cup in 29 years with the Cheetahs in 2005, had a successful stint in charge of the Stormers in Super Rugby and was a Technical Director when the Springboks won the World Cup in 2007.

He is set to start at Munster on July 1st, where as well as being the Director of Rugby, he will be in charge of Munster's attack, which is an area that the province will certainly be looking to improve next season.

The last 12 months have been a huge test for South Africa and Erasmus, but Munster will still be confident that they have the right man at the helm to bring the province forward.

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