South Africa: A Tribute to Rassie - the Hero SA Rugby Desperately Needed

Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi holds up the rugby World Cup trophy after his team won the 2019 tournament.

Cape Town — The Springbok class of 2019 - the champions of the world - will be remembered forever.

Makazole Mapimpi crossing the line after THAT no-look pass from Lukhanyo Am, Cheslin Kolbe side-stepping his way over to put the game to bed and Siyamthanda Kolisi becoming the first black Springbok captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup are all captured moments that will become as iconic as Joel Stransky's winning drop goal in 1995.

The stars aligned for the Boks and in the hours leading up to kick-off on Saturday, there was a feeling that something special was about to unfold.

Now, less than two years after an Allister Coetzee era that was plagued by a series of embarrassing losses, the Boks sit on top of the world once more.

There was not one poor individual performance on Saturday, with all 23 Boks elevating their levels when it mattered most.

England, from beginning to end, were outplayed thanks to the most clinical of displays from their superior opposition.

The players, rightly so, leave as legends.

The captain of the ship, however, and the man who orchestrated this simply stunning Bok revival is Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus.

Has there ever been a more impactful Springbok coach?

Erasmus was handed a broken team and a World Cup draw that saw the Boks pooled alongside the All Blacks because of how far they had fallen under Coetzee.

Yet, never once did Erasmus bite at an opportunity to take a stab at Coetzee or the work that he had done. From the very beginning, Erasmus was positive about the game in this country and how it was going to recover.

Anybody who has worked closely to Erasmus will tell you that, tactically, he is brilliant. He understands the game's modern trends, but he is also battle-hardened enough to know that sometimes what it takes to win a rugby match is rolled-up sleeves and good old-fashioned hard work.

Erasmus knew quickly that if the Boks were going to challenge for a World Cup title, they would have to revert to their traditional powers and that is what they did.

There is always a want for running rugby from the public, and while Erasmus' Boks provided that in doses over 2018 and 2019, they relied heavily on forward strength at set piece, an overall physicality and accurate kicking to get the job done in Japan.

In the final, however, Erasmus sprung a surprise that some have described as a tactical masterclass.

The Boks were expected to kick and chase all game, but they were happy to move the ball through the hands and got rewarded for that throughout.

The Boks are now World Cup champions, Rugby Championship champions, ranked No 1 in the world and they snapped up the Team of the Year prize at the World Rugby awards on Sunday too.

Erasmus, naturally, went home with Coach of the Year.

His comprehensive understanding of the game and tactical nous aside, it is Erasmus' man-management and his conduct off the field that have stood out.

He has always been open about his policies on transformation and the need for this Bok side to be representative of the county. He embraced that, and everybody involved in the Bok set-up was on the same page.

The end result was a starting XV on Saturday that included five black Africans and seven total players of colour and, most importantly, there can be no conversations around players being picked because of the colour of the skin.

Every single member of this Bok squad was chosen on merit. They have proved as much by winning the World Cup, and that process was facilitated by Erasmus and his willingness to give players opportunities.

Erasmus acknowledged at the World Cup that he was naive when he made Kolisi Bok captain back in 2018. He did not know the significance of the decision at the time - a bold revelation from a head coach.

It was, however, absolutely the correct call.

Kolisi doesn't command the respect of his peers, but he has earned it. He is a selfless leader and this country's politicians could learn a lot from him.

The private conversations of him being a 'quota captain' took place in some dark corners of the country ... make no mistake about that.

In Erasmus, though, Kolisi had a man who backed him for all of the right reasons and absolutely none of them had anything to do with race.

Together, Kolisi and Erasmus have provided a glimpse of what this country can be.

Erasmus will now step down as head coach and slip into his role as Director of Rugby. He insists that he will remain very hands-on with the national side, and that is good news.

The Boks are primed to get stronger in the years to come and there is a real opportunity to be world rugby's dominant force.

Erasmus, a South African hero, is key to all those plans.

- Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

Source: Sport24

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