Rugby World Cup winning Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus issued a caveat before his virtual talk on Thursday: “this is my opinion and it might not necessarily work for you”.
But given what his Springboks – who it emerged last week will be in a position to defend their Rugby Championship title later this year – achieved in 18 months, it’s hard to fight the urge not to follow his advice.
Now in the familiar routine of working from home, Erasmus was a guest of the Stellenbosch University alumni office on The Crest talks on leadership – a series of conversations with national and international leaders.
The question of transformation, an almost given for any Bok coach, was answered by Erasmus with the authority we have come to expect from him.
“If you see transformation as a black or coloured guy taking a white player’s spot, then you’re looking at the transformation the wrong way, and you’ll never coach a successful team if it’s not transformed,” Erasmus reasoned.
“Your team won’t be happy because if you do that, the black guy will look at you and know you don’t trust him.”
In a recent clip in which captain Siya Kolisi speaks at length about his personal experience as a black player and leader, while adding his voice to the global Black Lives Matter movement, he mentions how Erasmus “immediately” and “honestly” addressed transformation.
“Until now, when coach Rassie came in 2018, and he addressed it from the first go that we need to transform as a team. We need to transform not only by having people of colour in the team, but the environment itself. We had to transform from the inside. People must feel valued. Every culture must be represented,” Kolisi said in the clip.
The most representative Springbok team would go on to not only be world beaters, but record breakers in the process as well.
“People moan about transformation when they don’t even know what it’s about,” Erasmus points out.
Erasmus says it is down to also having a diverse team.
“We had four women in the management team who played a very important role for our players. That’s diversity. I can tell you now, at the World Cup we had a 100% happy, transformed and diverse playing and management team.
“We need to keep having a transformed team that wins… make sure you have a diverse team. Make sure black and white players have equal opportunity. And commit to that,” he said.
News of their Rugby Championship defence turned somewhat definitive last week as it emerged that New Zealand is the preferred host (for obvious reasons) of a centralised tournament, pending government approval.
Also last week, eight professional teams returned to non-contact training. The eight teams include the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Southern Kings, Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas.