It was a mixed bag for Rassie Erasmus as he tasted international competition as Springbok rugby coach for the first time earlier this year.
The former international loose forward initially found himself under early pressure after the Springboks lost to Wales in Washington in his first Test in charge, but that was effectively a B team, and it was always going to be a hit-or-miss one-off Test, with their main focus the home June Tests against England to come.
Despite awful starts in the first two Tests against England, his side went on to wrap up the three-match series with one to play. Even though they lost the final Test in a wet Cape Town, Erasmus took enough positives out of the series to give him hope. He found a new skipper in Siya Kolisi, while Bongi Mbonambi proved he is more than capable in the hooker position after superstar Malcolm Marx was ruled out due to injury. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk revived his international career with some telling performances, and most of the playing squad proved they belonged in his future plans.
With only 13 months to go to the World Cup in Japan next year, time is not on Erasmus’ side. He has to quickly find the right combinations against tough opposition, if South Africa are to mount a serious threat to winning their third World Cup title.
It starts in Durban today against Argentina – the same venue where the Pumas shocked the hosts just three years ago.
He welcomed back three key players to his starting line-up this week. Returning is the backbone of his forward pack Marx, while the experience of lock Eben Etzebeth would bolster any international team, and the leadership of No 8 Warren Whiteley can only help with the decision-making.
The Boks need to make a statement in Durban today, as sterner tests await in the next few months.