South Africa may be preparing for a Rugby World Cup semi-final against England on Saturday but don’t be surprised if Rassie Erasmus is seen dancing and jiving around the Stade de France beforehand. The Springboks will head into the mouthwatering clash in Saint-Denis knowing they have everything to lose after winning the tournament four years ago, but their entertaining director of rugby Erasmus may feel he has the winning formula.
The 50-year-old watched on as Jacques Nienaber guided his side to a magnificent 29-28 victory over France to preserve their status as World Cup holders, at least for the time being. A status that Erasmus had earned when he was in the dugout four years ago.
There appears to be a real sense of togetherness in the South Africa camp, and maybe it’s his relatable approach to life that brings a sense of calm in the most tense of atmospheres.
While Erasmus was still a player for the Boks, he was known to cut shapes on the dancefloor perhaps more than his team-mates. He could be found raving hard in clubs as he celebrated victories, according to i news, and even now, his tendency to enjoy a quick boogie has never waned.
In a viral social media post uploaded in 2021, Erasmus uploaded footage of himself dancing in his living room at his home as he bopped along to ‘Friday’ by Riton and The Nightcrawlers. By his own admission, Erasmus says he is “white and has no rhythm”, but his carefree, joyous side makes him popular with the fanbase, while other coaches prefer to take a more serious stance.
Earlier in life, Erasmus entered the army for two years at 18 before he attended university. After earning small amounts playing for he Free State in Bloemfontein, he took on a real variety of different day jobs before chasing his dream as a rugby coach. He was a salesman – selling office equipment for Minolta and also also ran a security firm.
Along with that, he was in charge of a BP petrol station, a video-film company and a financial services outfit. Erasmus also took pride in his cattle farm, although he shouldn’t be confused with another South African also named Rassie Erasmus, who owned an eight-year-old tiger named Sheba.
Eventually he moved full-time into coaching, with Free State, the Cheetahs, Western Province and the Stormers. Eventually, he made his way to Europe as a director of rugby and then coach with Munster. In 2016, he lost a European Cup semi-final to Saracens before an agonising 46-22 defeat to Scarlets the following year.
His light-hearted character may offer an alternative side of him when he’s away from the field. But England would be foolish to underestimate or misjudge Erasmus because, when it comes to rugby, there are few coaches more switched on in analytical terms.
When conducting his media duties in the build-up to the semi-final against England, Erasmus was quick to correct those who suggested Steve Borthwick’s side are not playing to the best of their ability.
“If we think England is bad because people from outside say that they are not doing well… our reality is the truth,” he said. “England [at the World Cup] scored 19 tries and got 180 points and we scored 26 tries and also have 180 points.
“They’ve conceded six tries, we’ve conceded seven and they’ve conceded 63 points and we’re 62. [That is] if you just look at stats – and I know stats don’t always tell the whole picture.”
Come Saturday, only one team will be celebrating. And if it’s South Africa who progress, Erasmus may well bust out some of his best moves if it means watching his country book a second consecutive World Cup final berth.
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