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02nd Nov 2019

“In South Africa, pressure is not having a job… (or) one of your close relatives being murdered”

Patrick McCarry

Rassie Erasmus

“How much does this mean to you?” the Springbok head coach was asked.

Rassie Erasmus’ answer was about 90 seconds in length and he did not take his gaze away from the William Webb Ellis trophy.

In fairness to the World Cup bauble, it is some piece of kit. Ireland have been trying 32 years without coming close to it. South Africa are making a habit of winning it every 12 years but even for that rugby-mad country, it’s not enough.

Following the Springboks’ 32-12 dismantling of England in the World Cup final, a South African reporter asked Erasmus about winning it again in four years. There’s a hint of the All Blacks about these Boks, their fans and travelling media. Many have no chill button.

For Erasmus, though, he intends to enjoy the next week and worry about worrying another time.

The former Munster head coach says he assembled his squad of players together, going into The Rugby Championship and then World Cup, and asked them all for 20 weeks of supreme sacrifice. The Springboks, he admitted, were behind the likes of England and New Zealand and had to push all their chips in over a five-month period if they were to be successful.

“This is Week 19, in our planning” he said. “Week 20 was the trophy tour back in South Africa.”

Back in November 2017, Ireland thrashed South Africa 38-3 at the Aviva Stadium in one of the final games of a shambolic Allister Coetzee reign. 12 of their match-day 23 from that game featured in the World Cup final.

Erasmus arrived as SARU director of rugby at the start of 2018 and Coetzee had moved on within two months. Erasmus took over as head coach but vowed he would lead his country to the World Cup, in that role, and no further.

Asked about the pressure of getting South Africa back to the top of the world game after they had, not so long ago, slipped to 8th in the rankings, Erasmus gave a powerful and poignant response.

“We talked about what pressure is.

“In South Africa, pressure is not having a job. Pressure is one of your close relatives being murdered.

“There are a lot of problems in South Africa — which are real pressure. Rugby shouldn’t be something that creates pressure, rugby should be something that creates hope.

“We started talking about how we have that privilege of giving people hope. Not a burden, of giving hope. Hope is not talking about it, saying you’ve got hope of tweeting a beautiful tweet, and things like that. Hope is when people watch the game on a Saturday and they have a nice braai (BBQ) and watch the game, and feel good afterwards, no matter your political differences, or your religious differences.

“The moment you see it that way, it becomes a hell of a privilege. And that’s how we tackled this whole World Cup campaign.”

Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s inspirational captain, sat by his coach’s side and also spoke superbly about what the World Cup win men for him, his team and his country.

Erasmus paid tribute to his captain, the first black man to ever captain the Springboks, by saying:

“It’s easy to talk about going through hard times and struggling to get opportunities.

“But then you think about it clearly. At one stage Siya didn’t have food or shoes to go to school, and now he’s led South Africa to the World Cup. That should sum up what Siya is.”

An incredible day for Erasmus, Kolisi and all involved with the Springboks.


The latest episode sees Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look back on the GOOD vs. EVIL World Cup semi finals and this weekend’s final.



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