Rassie Erasmus’ biggest role as high-performance manager is to implement Heyneke Meyer’s blueprint across the board, writes BRENTON CHELIN for SARugbyMag.co.za
Erasmus, widely praised for his work in turning Western Province rugby around, was spotted at the Coca-Cola Craven Week in Middelburg and SARugbymag.co.za took the chance to have a word with him. Having joined Saru as high-performance manager in April 2012, Erasmus has been working tirelessly to implement a new structure in South African rugby, building a team of coaches, analysts and medical staff who can help develop the country’s best young talent into potential Springbok candidates. Craven Week plays an integral role in this development, something that Erasmus is well aware of.
‘Firstly it’s important to give the boys the honour of representing their provinces at this high level at this stage of their career and then to see how they perform under pressure,’ says Erasmus on the role of Craven Week. ‘We have a number of people on the ground here, from our development department, high-performance, the U20 coaches, the national selectors and we’re rating the players as they play. We’re having a workshop with the players this week where we get them onto the database. We want to make sure that by the time they get to U20 level with Dawie (Theron), there’s not too much to be done.’
His role as high-performance manager is far-reaching. He oversees an expansive team all with one main goal; to implement Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok blueprint at all levels. It’s a system that has proven effective across codes, most notably with the German international football team that were recently crowned world champions. Such continuity will only help with the transition of young players into the senior ranks says Erasmus.
‘Our biggest role is to take Heyneke’s blueprint and try to filter it down to Dawie. One of the nice things about Heyneke is his willingness to share ideas with everybody. The Mobi-Unit guys, Louis Koen, Jean Roux, Pieter de Villiers work with the Springboks and have first-hand experience on Heyneke’s coaching techniques and philosophies, and Dawie uses them as well at SA U20 and at SA Schools, so all that knowledge is shared. Dawie can still make decisions on which aspects he’s going to use. At this stage he’s incorporated a lot of the stuff and it’s working really well for him, but he’s added his own flavour to the game plan. It makes it easier for a player like Handré Pollard or Pieter-Steph du Toit to move up between the ranks. So we want to take the blueprint to the SA Schools team and as far down the system as we can.’
Craven Week remains the pinnacle of schoolboy rugby, but what of the boys who aren’t selected for one reason or another? Players like Bryan Habana and Willie le Roux never represented their provinces on schoolboy rugby’s greatest stage. Erasmus was quick to stress that failure to play at the Craven Week is not the end of the line for talented youngsters.
‘You don’t want to exclude guys that don’t make the Craven Week for future Springbok selection, but obviously if you get to the Craven Week then you’ve got enough talent. We’ve got a scouting system where we look for guys that through no fault of their own don’t make the Craven Week sides, but most of the boys playing here will make up the SA U20 squad eventually.’