Sport

WINDS OF CHANGE

Standing still is falling behind for Rassie’s Boks as Kolisi’s captaincy in the balance

Standing still is falling behind for Rassie’s Boks as Kolisi’s captaincy in the balance
Could it be the end of Siya Kolisi's tenure as Bok captain because he is based in France? (Photo: Paul Harding/Getty Images)

After completing their first player and coaching alignment session of 2024, the world champion Springboks have dedicated themselves to a new path.

In elite sports, they say that standing still is falling behind and Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is already careening off into the future with plans for the team in the short, medium and long term.

On Tuesday he officially unveiled former All Black flyhalf Tony Brown and Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery as his attack and defence coaches respectively.

Jerry Flannery and Tony Brown

New Bok assistant coaches, Jerry Flannery (right) and Tony Brown will handle defence and attack respectively. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

But more intriguingly, Erasmus suggested that Siya Kolisi might not captain the Boks in 2024, if he even plays at all.

Kolisi has taken up a contract with Racing 92 in Paris and has performed well for his French club in the first half of the European season.

But there is some speculation that his contract with the club precludes him from playing for the Boks. Erasmus said as far as he was aware, Kolisi was still available. But he did make it clear that having the national captain playing outside of South Africa, was not ideal.

“Siya is playing some of his best rugby, but I prefer to have my captain locally based as that allows for more interaction,” Erasmus told a media gathering.

Siya Kolisi

South African captain Siya Kolisi is congratulated by Rassie Erasmus after the Boks beat New Zealand 12-11 in the final of Rugby World Cup 2023. (Photo: Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

“This is a unique situation and I think he (Kolisi) will play some Test matches, he certainly wants to, but we are not sure about the captaincy.

“There’s a lot of players who have signed with overseas clubs with clauses in their contracts that say they will stop playing international rugby. Siya has not signed with a clause like that,” Erasmus said.

“That’s the first thing that tells you he wants to play for South Africa. I think he is playing some of his best rugby. He looks really relaxed.”

The Boks have a large group of players who are into their 30s and might not make the next four-year cycle to Rugby World Cup 2027 in Australia, which is another consideration for the Bok coach as he looks forward.

“In 2018 we had a roadmap for the players and we said, ‘Where will this guy be in 2019, 2023 and 2027?’ We know exactly which players can only last another year, and we have given them the task to help the youngsters before they leave.

“But it is a challenge to tell a player, ‘okay, you must stop now.’ We have guys in their 30s who believe they can win another World Cup.”

Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber

Bok captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber on the Rugby World Cup 2023 Springbok Trophy Tour in Pretoria on 2 November 2023. (Photo: Christiaan Kotze / Gallo Images)

Evolution

Brown and Flannery have replaced Felix Jones and Jacques Nienaber in those roles, and Brown in particular has the job of turning the Boks into an even greater attacking force than they were in 2023.

Flannery, of course, has to take responsibility for the defence that former head coach Jacques Nienaber built so meticulously over six years.

The Boks were the best defensive team in the world for most of that time and on their path to glory at Rugby World Cup 2023 in France, their defence was paramount to their success.

“I’m very fortunate, and the Springboks are very fortunate for the [defensive] foundation Jacques has laid,” Flannery said.

“Anything positive that happens from here is going to be built on that foundation and anything that goes wrong is all on me. I’m very much aware of that, but I’m going to try and build in what the Springboks have already constructed.”

So, no pressure then Jerry.

This year will also be the first time that Erasmus will coach without Nienaber by his side in almost 25 years. It will be interesting to see how that void is filled.

Rassie Erasmus

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is dedicated to a new path of ‘creativity and a lack of arrogance,’ as the Boks start a new cycle. (Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Potential pitfalls

The reality is that Boks won’t try and reinvent the wheel, especially when it comes to defence. But they also refuse to stand still and fall into the trap of believing that what worked last year, will necessarily function as well again this year.

“We had our first sessions as a group last week and following our discussions, we came up with three potential pitfalls to stopping us winning, even if we continue to work as hard as we did in the past,” Erasmus said.

“They are: a lack of leadership; a lack of creativity and an abundance of arrogance. One, or all of those three aspects, can stop you from being successful.”

Brown, who brings a New Zealander’s natural flair for attack to the set-up, will almost certainly be tasked with sparking new creativity in the group.

And the man capped 18 times by the All Blacks has no doubt he can provide some new energy and spark to what was an already blossoming Bok attack.

“Can I make a massive difference around how the Springboks attack? Yes, 100% I can,” Brown said with huge confidence and without a hint of self-doubt.

“I truly believe that because of the way the Boks play, if we add a few little things around the attacking side of the game, we can be a truly dominant side on attack. Like we already are on defence, in the scrum, the lineout and the maul.”

New additions

Erasmus has also added a performance analyst in Paddy Sullivan, who worked with the team as a consultant at last year’s Rugby World Cup. Sullivan has been a performance analyst for French Top 14 team, Montpelier, for the last three seasons.

“We’ve reviewed what it takes to be at the cutting edge of the game and we’ve repurposed the management structure to put as much resource as we can into the technical side of the game,” said Erasmus.

“The players will continue to get the necessary off-field support, but we wanted to make sure that we had the right roles filled to make sure that the main thing stays the main thing.”

The management team has been confirmed for the season and will be first in action against Wales at Twickenham on 22 June.

“This is a watershed year for South African rugby with the off-field developments that are being discussed and it’s our job to make sure that everything remains on track on the field,” said Erasmus.

“I’m excited about the coaching and management team we’ve put together and really looking forward to getting out there once again.” DM

Springbok Management:

Rassie Erasmus: Head Coach

Charles Wessels: Team Manager

Mzwandile Stick: Assistant Coach

Daan Human: Assistant Coach

Deon Davids: Assistant Coach

Tony Brown: Assistant Coach

Jerry Flannery: Assistant Coach

Andy Edwards: Head of Athletic Performance

Sebastian Prim: Sport Scientist

Paddy Sullivan: Performance Analyst

Lindsay Weyer: Technical Analyst

Jaco Peyper: Laws and Discipline Advisor

Dr Jerome Lehlogonolo Mampane: Team Doctor

Dr Aneurin Robyn: Physiotherapist

Rene Naylor: Physiotherapist

JJ Fredericks: Logistics Manager

Zintsika Tashe: Operations Manager

Zeena Isaacs van Tonder: Media Manager

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Why mess with a plan that clearly works extremely well?

    All fine in weeks before a tournament, mess with the other side about selection, but this team from outside seems like a well running MACHINE. We can stay top 3 in the world changing nothing. Tournaments are always a gamble, as our by1 by1 by1 showed. But no sane rugby expert would class us below top 3.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      That just shows how little you know. The poms are already using the Rassie Rush Defence and others are copying other aspects of the Bok game. In fact, the prospect of the 2027 being played on dry Aussie fields means that the Bok back play will expand exponentially unlike in wet France, and needs developing. The old Boere manier is over. Klaar. Get used to it, maat. Even the Bulls are actually playing running rugby at last.

  • John Patson says:

    Anyone been watching the Six Nations this year? An absolute cracker of a tournament with maybe one weekend where the games were a bit of a slow grind.
    Last weekend and the winner is still up in the air, although it will be a brave punter who bets against Ireland.
    Compare that with the later stages of the World Cup, and you see why there are more and more whispers calling for the Southern Hemisphere to be allowed to drift off and play by its-self.
    Rugby League and Rugby Union have co-existed since the formation of the League in 1895 — why not let south rugby union develop away from north rugby union — they are already very different games.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Absolutely and utterly not. Rugby league is completely one-dimensional: “Five tackles, kick ; Five tackles, kick,* ad nauseam. But it’s strong in Oz (probably because it’s simpler for them to understand) and getting that way in NZ, which is why the NZRU have tried for years to make union as boring – witness their disgraceful suffocating of the proposed breakdown rules back in 2016 because it didn’t work with their boring turnover way of playing. SA is well clear of them for sure. And how the **** can you compare the six nations games with the latter stages of the RWC, where you may not have heard that the Boks vs France semi is considered as one of the best rugby union games EVER?! And, while I understand it might be difficult for you to grasp, the last two weeks in France were incredibly wet, certainly not conducive to running rugby! You really do need to think about it a bit more?

      • John Patson says:

        Like I said: France / South Africa had a Southern Hemisphere ref playing Southern Hemisphere rules with respect to knock ons and charging kicks.
        Let the South play to their own rules.

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