Columns 17.3.2018 09:15 am

Rassie has much to ponder

Rassie has more than a few conundrums to ponder and he also has a captaincy dilemma on the way to the Rugby World Cup next September.

The question on the mind of virtually everyone who follows Six Nations rugby, is whether the rest of the coaches and sides who contest the European championship have worked out what Eddie Jones and his ensemble are up to?

Certainly it would also be central to the thinking new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus applies to the outcome of this afternoon’s series-ending match between Ireland – fittingly perhaps, on St Patrick’s Day – and England at Twickenham.

The strutting bullies in white of the last campaign have been humbled this season, surprisingly beaten 25-13 in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield. It had been a decade since the Scots last beat their old rivals in this series-within-a-series. And then having to accept the bitter taste of a 22-16 defeat to France at Stade de France in their last outing.

As counterpoint, Ireland, a member of the inaugural Home Nations in 1883, won their first championship and Triple Crown in 1894, their first Grand Slam in the 1948 season and their second in the 2009 season. In total, Ireland have been champions on thirteen occasions following their title in the 2015 Six Nations Championship.

As things stand, Ireland, who have already clinched the championship –and don’t forget the 38-3 drubbing they handed out to the Springboks in Dublin last November – are on the cusp of a third Grand Slam. However, you should factor in that England would likely be a different proposition at home.

With Super Rugby having shown Rassie little this season other than the inability of South African sides to close a game out, the coach has more than a few conundrums to ponder.

Surely his first thought will be the Rugby World Cup in Japan next September and November. Certainly, this is what Jones will be zeroing in on.

This offers Erasmus another conundrum. With England’s pride currently in tatters it is highly likely that Jones would use the three-Test England tour of SA in June as a launch pad for a new-look World Cup squad.

Rassie also has a captaincy dilemma. Go with the proven calm command of Warren Whiteley? Or risk another injury breakdown and another leadership hiatus? Both Rassie and Eddie have some questions to answer.

 

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