No waterboy duties for Rassie Erasmus against Ireland

South Africa’s director of rugby will be in the coach’s box at Lansdowne Road

Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that he will not be acting as a ‘waterboy’ for the Springboks, as he did during the Lions’ tour, on returning to match day duties against Ireland next Saturday at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm) in light of World Rugby clarifying that this is not part of the remit for a director of rugby.

Erasmus has completed his two-month ban from all rugby activity for his behaviour towards match officials during a Springboks-Lions’ Test, which prevented him from being involved with any team on a matchday until September 30th, 2022 after being found guilty of six misconduct charges.

“Obviously it was in the protocols and laws back when I was water carrier,” Erasmus said from the Springboks’ hotel on Wednesday. “So I’ll be back in the coaches box with the coaches.”

Nonetheless the return of Erasmus to match-day duties next Saturday with the Springboks is a significant boost for the tourists given his renowned and passionate motivational skills, as any of his former Munster charges can testify.

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It so happens that this will be his first game against Ireland with the Springboks, and the first since Ireland’s record 38-3 win in Dublin five years ago which prompted Erasmus, watching in the stands along with Jacques Nienaber, to return home. Such was their transformative effect that within two years they defeated England in the 2019 World Cup final, which was three years ago today.

“We got a proper hiding, 38-3. But the next three years, things got better and we managed to win the World Cup. I guess five years since then, both teams have changed dramatically in terms of how they do things and how they play.

“Obviously, the way Ireland have played and the teams they have beaten to be where they are currently, they’re doing a lot of things right on and off the field. But we’re looking forward to it, we’re in for stiff competition. The Irish crowd are respectful and know how to enjoy both sides of the game. It’s going to be a good one to watch.”

Erasmus also played down the potential for a colour clash given the Springboks, as the away team, are entitled to wear their traditional dark green jerseys, while Ireland will wear their navy blue alternative strip.

“The thing is I’m not sure. I’ve looked at both jerseys whether they will clash. For me, it looks like it won’t clash but I’m not a referee who makes the decisions on the field when it’s really tight and close. I guess those guys will have done their homework and know it wouldn’t clash.

“I just know the home team gets to wear their alternative jerseys and the visiting team wears their traditional jerseys. So as long as the referee can see and the fans can see and we’re able to play without disturbing anything. Really when I compare the two, it looks like there’s a difference.

“We just know we have to pitch up with our jerseys and if there’s a clash, the guys in charge will sort it out.”

In addition to Erasmus’ season and a half with Munster, the Springboks have the former Munster and current Leinster player Jason Jenkins in the squad, although he didn’t see the lock’s Irish experience as especially relevant and certainly was no factor in Jenkins’ return.

While he knew the Irish set-up very well, Erasmus countered: “But then the Irish players and coaches know me very well. I know the question of Jason Jenkins comes up but you can look at it the other way around as well. He’s going back to Leinster and he will obviously know a lot about the Boks.

“It’s something that people always ask but we’d never pick a guy for that reason, it would be stupid to mess around a guy’s career. Then to answer your specific question on insights, there’s a lot of plans that we made and analysis we did for them but they will have done the same. It will be great to see on Saturday which of those two plans and tactics work. We’re fairly confident but we know they’re fairly confident. It will be a great match-up.”

Eben Etzebeth is one of 10 survivors from the match-day squad in that last meeting five years ago and said of this current Irish team: “We saw on their tour of New Zealand that they’ve got quite a strong maul, they maul quite a bit. Then also they’ve got a good scrum, they won a couple of scrum penalties in that series. They’re very clinical at the breakdown, they know exactly their job and they do their job very well.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times