Durban – Former Springbok rugby coach Rassie Erasmus is likely to be back with the team on their end-of-year northern hemisphere tour as a lengthy ban from attending matches comes to an end.
Erasmus, now South Africa’s director of rugby, has been unable to be with his long-time lieutenant Jacques Nienaber, the current coach, since being handed a ban by Rugby in November last year.
The ban ends on September 30.
Rugby found Erasmus guilty on six charges relating to criticism of Australian referee Nic Berry after the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in July 2021, which included the release of an hour-long video in which he analysed what he claimed were numerous mistakes by Berry.
The ban prohibited Erasmus from entering venues or having any direct or indirect contact with coaching staff or players on match days.
The last Springbok match in which the ban applied was a scrappy 38-21 win against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.
The Springboks finished second behind New Zealand in the Rugby Championship after failing to secure a minimum 39-point winning margin which would have taken them ahead of the All Blacks.
The match was marred by six yellow cards and 39 penalties awarded by Australian referee Damon Murphy.
Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi both said after the game that they felt the Springboks had made progress during the year but that they had failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities that they had created.
“We took a big step forward by winning a third match in a row and we want to take that momentum into the end of the year tour,” said Kolisi.
South Africa will open the tour with a match against Ireland, currently the number one team in the world, in Dublin on November 5. They will meet second-ranked France in Marseilles on November 12 and have matches against Italy and England over the following two weekends.
The Ireland contest will take place on Erasmus’ 50th birthday and his lawyer Frikkie Erasmus told Rapport newspaper that being back at matches would be a “relief” to his namesake client.
“He and Jacques have a unique working relationship. Rassie’s absence put a lot of pressure on Jacques. Rassie has a fundamental impact on the mood and motivation of the players,” said Frikkie Erasmus.
Nienaber, meanwhile, said the Springboks had gone out on Saturday with the intention of overtaking the All Blacks and had been on course when they led 17-0 before conceding a try shortly before half-time.
The coach said that although the Springboks fell short in the championship they had built depth in their squad as they worked towards defending the Cup in France next year.
“We are in a better position now in terms of learning about certain positions than we were when we started,” said Nienaber.