South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is relishing being back in the coaches box for Saturday’s international against Ireland in Dublin following his controversial role as water carrier.
Erasmus has completed a match-day stadium ban for his video critique of Australian referee Nic Berry during last year’s British & Irish Lions series and, three years to the day on from lifting the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks, is delighted to be involved again.
He used a loophole in regulations to act as a water carrier during the Lions series, getting messages to players on the pitch, a role that has since been outlawed by World Rugby.
“It was within the protocols when I was water carrier, but now (the rules have changed) I’ll be back in the coaching box,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I missed it a lot. I love rugby, being with the guys, it’s going to be nice to be around the boys in the changing room.”
South Africa’s last match against Ireland was in 2017 when they were thumped 38-3 in Dublin during one of the side’s lowest ebbs. Erasmus took over the following year and revitalised the team’s fortunes.
“We got a proper hiding that day, but in the next two years things got better and we managed to win the World Cup,” he said.
“Both teams have changed dramatically in terms of how they play. Ireland, with the teams they have beaten and where they are currently (as the top-ranked side in the world), they are doing a lot of things right on and off the field.”
Erasmus is expecting a tense clash in Dublin, with the Boks likely to run the ball more, weather permitting, having selected fit-again Cheslin Kolbe at fullback and Damian Willemse at flyhalf.
“(This Ireland team) has a physical and tactical edge. If you take the experience of Johnny (Sexton) and some of the other guys in the team, it is well balanced.”
The Boks will also face Ireland in their pool at next year’s World Cup in France.
“It spices it up,” Erasmus said. “We have also not beaten them in Ireland since 2012. Our last World Cup win was three years ago, and it was wonderful and great, but we are now thinking about the next one and trying to gain momentum.”