All Blacks legends fear the future of ‘scary’ Springboks under ‘most innovative coach’ Rassie Erasmus

Colin Newboult
Pieter-Steph du Toit in action for the Springboks against Ireland, and head coach Rassie Erasmus.

Pieter-Steph du Toit, whose role has changed, in action for the Springboks against Ireland.

Several All Blacks greats have heaped praise on the Springboks and their head coach, Rassie Erasmus, after their start to the 2024 Test campaign.

South Africa are the back-to-back reigning world champions as the 2023 success followed on from their 2019 triumph in Japan.

Not content with those Rugby World Cup victories, the Springboks are already planning for 2027 in Australia and an unprecedented three-peat.

They have looked to adapt their style slightly since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup last year after bringing in highly regarded attack coach Tony Brown.

The early signs are that the Boks are seeking to expand their game and be far more potent in attack, which has left ex-All Blacks Sir John Kirwan, Jeff Wilson and Mils Muliaina impressed.

‘Always thinking forward’

“I think Rassie is one of the most innovative coaches in the world. He will already be thinking about the next World Cup,” Kirwan said on The Breakdown.

“Did I like the style that they played in the World Cup? No, I didn’t, but everybody knows that and they won the World Cup.

“Would we do the same? Probably.

“I think Rassie is always thinking forward. With these new rules, if South Africa can play that expansive game, that’s scary. That’s scary for a lot of teams.

“I think he’s already thinking about the next World Cup. I think they will play way more expansively during the Rugby Championship, so that’s a scary thought because I think they’ve got the athletes across the park.”

All Blacks legends in heated exchange as Sir John Kirwan claims Springboks style ‘not the future’ of rugby

‘Innovation’ was the watchword for the former All Blacks trio, with Muliaina particularly enjoying what they’re bringing to the game.

“Just seeing the way they’re playing at the moment, the innovation they’ve brought to the game. The ‘Bomb Squad’, bringing six guys on. People have started to change their bench based on what they started,” the All Blacks centurion said.

“Now they’re getting a lot more expansive. They are looking sharp.”

Kirwan/Wilson argument

Last week Kirwan and Wilson were involved in a heated exchange where the latter praised the Boks but the former said they were “not the future of our game.”

Wilson pointed to South Africa’s dominant win against Wales, which Kirwan described as a “rant”, as evidence of their development, and the 50-year-old was quick to refer back to that conversation when discussing the Springboks’ victory over Ireland in Pretoria.

“Was it last week I went on a rant about South African rugby? About how dangerous they’re going to be because, if you look at the way they played, they were more expansive in this game. They played differently in this game,” he said.

“Handre Pollard didn’t kick very well in terms of the fact he missed a number of kicks at goal, but those penalties were on the back of their multi-phase play.

“Their ability to get the ball to the edge. They played with huge amount of depth in their backline and they had their loose forwards – (Siya) Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit – on the edges carrying.

“They were running with speed, depth and accuracy, and getting over the advantage line.”

The Boks are only in the early stages of this slight alteration to their game plan but Wilson has been mightily impressed with what they have done so far.

Excellent attack

“They showed some things in this game to me where this is innovation for them. Normally, they’re just direct, but their timing was good, their spacing was good, their lines were good, all the little things you would expect [from a good attack],” he said.

“There was an ability to find space on the outside channel. Now, we struggled to do that against Ireland, we couldn’t find that sort of space. They would have won this game more comfortably if Handre Pollard had kicked his penalties.

“They have already evolved a little bit and we’ve seen already the moment they roll out six new forwards, that’s what they can create. They get a penalty try when they desperately needed it – the game was still in the balance there.

“This was an impressive performance against an Irish team who wanted to go down and prove a point, and they’ve (Ireland) proved once again they couldn’t quite get it done.”

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