Johan Erasmus is a man who knows how to get the best out of those around him.
The former Free State and SA loose forward was known to be a deep thinker and master tactician in his playing days. Even back in the early days of professionalism, Rassie was known to spend his evenings in his room, using his laptop to analyse the opposition, rather than drinking up a storm with his teammates.
His approach to coaching is no less methodical and no less scientific. In an age where innovation is scarce at the highest levels of the game, Rassie Erasmus sticks out like a sore thumb. His patent “rotate-a-prop” technique and his innovative “Bloemfontein disco-light” signaling system as just two of his better-known inventions. Both have flouted the laws to an extent; both have met with some success.
So Rassie is now in charge in Cape Town and if ever a team was in need of the proverbial “breath of fresh air”, the Stormers are that team. Too long the once-giant of South African domestic rugby has been content to rest on its laurels and ruminate on the memories of past glory. Too long have the pay packets, the fast cars and faster women (giving them the benefit of the doubt here!) taken precedence over good performances. In the recently-quoted words of another provincial coach (I think it might be the Kiwi), “Mate, when I think of the Stormers, all I see is a bunch of soft c**ts!”
Rassie has a lot of work to do to turn that perception around. You don’t turn softies into hard bastards overnight and running an eye over the Stormers squad, there’s not a huge amount of the sort of beef in the tight five that would get Rassie worked up. Ok, that just sounded sick, but you know what I mean! At least he has brought in a good tight head in Mujati and a promising young hard lock in Fondse. Schalk Burger is worth three normal men anyway which means you can commit more of your loose forwards to the tight exchanges and still be ok! So, there is probably enough to work with in the meantime that hopefully, given Rassie’s magic touch and a bit of old-fashioned discipline, we should hopefully see more fire from the Cape Town pack than we have in a while.
To my mind, though, the most positive change that Rassie seems set to make is that of making the players accept accountability for their actions. Already this week he has banned the guys from mouthing off in the press – a very positive sign and pretty significant change for a team that has, let’s be honest, done most of their talking off the field over the last few years. It is rumoured that the Straueli-inspired turnaround at the Sharks began with a very similar message. Don’t take the money unless you’re willing to give your all on the field and don’t let me see you in this office again, you understand? That sort of thing. Worked like a charm.
The flash playboy image has to go, but managing this process in such a way that he does not stifle the natural creativity and flair that is a hallmark of the Stormers game is going to be a huge challenge for Rassie. The disco-lights won’t work in Cape Town and he has selected possibly the biggest playboy of them all, the poster-child of the hedonistic Stormers culture, as his captain. Is there method to his madness? Or is he destined to be hit by more of the “fok die ligte, kom ons speel die game” (fuck the lights, let’s just play the game) attitude that marred his final days in Bloemfontein?
Only time will tell. In my opinion, Rassie is the best thing that could possibly have happened to Western Cape rugby right now. Let’s just hope they give him the support he needs.Tweet