Consultants will instill culture of excellence

JON CARDINELLI says that Rassie Erasmus and Derik Coetzee will provide the Springboks with what they’ve been lacking over the past three seasons.

Erasmus and Coetzee were on Monday named as coaching consultants to the Boks as the squad began the final stage of their World Cup preparations. Erasmus has been contracted to help with the technical areas of the game, while Coetzee has been brought in to improve the players’ conditioning.

These appointments are overdue. The 2010 Test season showed the Boks to be inadequate in both areas. Not only were they technically out-manoeuvred by their Australasian counterparts, but some of their players were well short of the conditioning requirements of a top-flight athlete.

The Boks failed to build on the outstanding performances of the Bulls and Stormers in the 2010 Super 14. South Africa’s premier sides had not only won through to the final, but also exhibited a great understanding and appreciation for the revised laws.

It seemed crazy that the Boks were unable to follow suit even though they boasted many of those self-same Bulls and Stormers players. It said much for the way the national team was coached.

The good news is that there’s still hope for the Boks, and perhaps Peter de Villiers has finally reached the stage where he can put the interests of South African rugby ahead of his own personal pride.

He made a joke of the fact on Monday when he said it had taken him three years to realise that a professional media manager was needed to facilitate a relationship with reporters, a joke that served as a precursor to his explanation for appointing Erasmus and Coetzee.

Both men are well known to the senior Bok players. Eddie Jones went to the 2007 World Cup as the Boks’ technical adviser, and while he received due credit after the successful campaign, men like captain John Smit were also quick to laud Erasmus’s contributions.

Erasmus commanded respect back in 2007, and he will command even more respect of the grizzled Bok senior players in 2011.

His first stint with the Boks was on the back of three years with the Cheetahs, who managed to win two Currie Cup titles while Erasmus was at the helm. He has since moulded the Stormers into a competitive and feared unit, and while there may be no silverware to show for it, his reputation as one of world rugby’s best technical minds has been greatly enhanced.

To paraphrase Smit, Erasmus has the energy and technical know-how, and for those reasons, he’s exactly what the Boks need. Areas like the lineout and the breakdown are his expertise, and we can expect a notable improvement in both facets of a play.

Coetzee’s input should also prove invaluable. In 2010, Bok conditioning coach Neels Liebel told the media that John Smit and Ricky Januarie weren’t overweight, which was a lie in the same class as the one told to the emperor in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Smit and Januarie were too fat by far, and to say anything to the contrary was to insult the public’s intelligence.

Smit has done his best to shed the extra kilos but there’s more to conditioning than reaching your goal weight. Coetzee had the Boks of 2007 on a special programme that prepared them to peak at the tournament itself, and although he will complain about the short-time frame ahead of the coming showpiece in New Zealand, he will devise a way to lift the current standards.

These are appointments that should have been made at an earlier date, but are nevertheless appointments that will aid the Boks’ World Cup cause. And while it has taken De Villiers all of three years to admit that he needs help, rather he admit the fact now than never.

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