Rassie Erasmus has revealed that Ireland’s 38-3 win against South Africa in 2017 convinced him to leave his job as Munster’s head coach.
South Africa had experienced a torrid two years under then-head coach Allister Coetzee, winning just 11 of their 25 test matches that they played in 2016 and 2017.
Among those losses were a first-ever defeat to Italy in Florence in November 2016, as well as a 57-0 loss to New Zealand in September 2017.
Despite those previous historic losses, the 35-point defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in November 2017 was the final straw for Erasmus, as he decided to leave his post in Limerick and take over as the Springboks’ head coach.
‘That was the day I decided’
Erasmus was speaking about his decision in the first episode of the Chasing the Sun documentary and he revealed that the thumping loss to Ireland made up his mind that day.
“I was in the stands at the Aviva Stadium with [Jacques] Nienaber and as a fan for the first time in years when we lost 38-3 to Ireland. That was the day I decided,” Erasmus said.
“I was coaching in Ireland and felt we couldn’t be losing to a nation with so many fewer players than we had as a nation.”
12 Nov 2017!!! This is why we must work so hard, this how quickly things can change!!! pic.twitter.com/PpJg5VYPWh
— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) February 14, 2020
The Springboks struggled with consistency in Erasmus’ first year in charge, as they won just seven of their 14 test matches in 2018. However, one of those wins came against the All Blacks in Wellington, a sign of major progress.
The next year South Africa continued to improve, and despite losing to New Zealand in a pool match at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, they eventually went on to defeat England in the final.
While the Springboks’ improvement can’t be entirely attributed to Erasmus as the South African rugby union allowed overseas-based players to play for the national team again, there’s no denying that the coach had a major positive impact on his country.
South Africa haven’t played since that victory in the Rugby World Cup final in 2019, as the ongoing pandemic scuppered their plans in 2020.
However, they are set to play the British and Irish Lions this summer, to end their year-and-a-half-long absence from international rugby.