Former Springboks captain's Wynand Claassen, Warren Whiteley and Antonie Claassen (Wynand's son) at World of Rugby on June 18, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Zoe-Lee Botma/Gallo Images)
As a boy growing up in Middelburg and as a student at the University of Pretoria, former Springbok rugby captain Wynand Claassen loved his cricket and he believes the two sports face starkly contrasting fortunes based on their current trajectories.
The Proteas have already bombed out of the Cricket World Cup in dismal fashion, but Claassen is far more positive when it comes to the Rugby World Cup.
He says the Springboks’ upward curve is due to embracing former players like coach Rassie Erasmus in crucial roles.
“In South African sport we tend to chase the old players away, which means you don’t have their know-how; elsewhere they embrace their old players, here not so much. So that’s why it is nice to see Rassie doing so well, he has smelt the wintergreen in the Springbok changeroom, he was a phenomenal player and now he’s a coach with vision and insight. He was mentally tough as a player and he knows world rugby.
“But there’s a great gap between South African cricket and rugby and it comes down to rugby having the right coaching. I know there are a lot of guys overseas, but the talent is still there in cricket. And they’ve got to select their best side. The 31 guys who go to the Rugby World Cup will be in form and the best, people who say there are quota players are talking twak. They are all there on merit – you can see how they play,” Claassen told The Citizen.
Claassen’s views on teams being selected on merit have certainly not mellowed, and he continued: “Cricket are not selecting their best side and their depth is not very good, so I don’t think the same turnaround is going to happen in cricket. To go to the World Cup without AB de Villiers also shows something is hugely wrong. You’ve got to accommodate a guy like that, especially when you don’t have enough top players,” the rangy No 8 said.
AB de Villiers. AFP/File/Glyn KIRK
Claassen said Cricket South Africa needed to try and create stiffer competition at domestic level, as rugby has done with Super Rugby.
“Super Rugby has really helped our rugby and cricket doesn’t have that. Every week our rugby players are coming up against top New Zealand and Australian sides, as well as playing each other. That competitiveness is working in rugby and our players are no longer in awe of an All Black because they’ve been through that experience of playing against them.
“Instead, cricket’s new domestic system is going to put a lot of guys out of work and I think it’s going to be a death blow. Rugby also has much bigger TV rights and they can groom players for higher honours,” Claassen said.
South Africa’s captain for the demo-racked 1981 tour of New Zealand said SA Rugby needed to try and keep Erasmus as the Springbok coach after this year’s World Cup.
SOUTH AFRICA – UNDATED: Wynand Claassen playing rugby in New Zealand in 1981.(Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)
“They must keep Rassie until 2023, there’s no doubt in my mind. Rassie must identify the next guy and get him into the coaching staff as well, and then he can take over at the end of 2023. That’s what the All Blacks do, they had Graham Henry involved for 12 years and Steve Hansen worked under him and has now also been involved for 12 years. That’s how they have continuity.
“We are working on four-year cycles and throwing away the coach, so there’s no consistency with a whole new management structure every four years,” Claassen said.
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