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‘F**king go play chess if you want to be so smart’ – how Rassie Erasmus tried to psyche up Boks for Irish World Cup clash


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New documentary broadcast in South Africa reveals:

Springboks supremo used clips from the Irish media to motivate his players before pool defeatWhy he went for the 7/1 splitRead his ‘false’ players the riot act after losing to Ireland

Chasing the Sun 2, a revealing new behind-the-scenes documentary broadcast in South Africa last weekend, lifts the lid on the world champions’ preparations for the epic clash last September, with Erasmus telling his charges that the game was “personal” because of a perceived lack of respect for his team.

In the days leading up to the match, Erasmus used a team meeting to play series of clips from the Irish media to fire them up.

“I want to show you things here that would probably upset you. It’s not to psyche you out, but to make you determined to understand what you face for Saturday,” he said, before playing a clip of former Harlequins out-half Andy Dunne describing the Springbok player as “physical freaks” who Ireland could outsmart.

“Rugby’s a physical game, it’s not chess,” Erasmus tells his players.

“F**king go play chess if you want to be so smart. Let them be smarter, but at least match us physically within the laws, man. Match us physically within the laws, we’ll be smart enough.”

Then, he played a series of clips from Off the Ball regarding the doping culture in schoolboy rugby in South Africa, with broadcaster Ger Gilroy describing South African rugby as “in my view one of the worst sporting cultures in the world” and calling South Africans “whinging babies”.

“It’s something that unsettled me quite a lot,” flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit said, with hooker Bongi Mbonambi agreeing.

“It’s something that got us f***ing angry,” he said.

“The way they see us is a little country in the corner of Africa – they think they can compete with the rest of world, they’ve all the facilities, all the equipment, all the training grounds… English rolls better off their tongues than us – we we’re f***ing upset.”

Erasmus then says to his players: “This one is personal for us. It’s not bringing hope to a boy so he can be a Springbok one day… it’s bringing hope that, when we come together, we can be successful and that is what people want to see.

“If you feel like you want to do it safe, it’s un-South African. In South Africa, we can’t do the safe thing. We’ve 34 per cent unemployment, eight million people.

“We have to be f***ing ruthless. Siya (Kolisi). From the toss, we don’t give them respect because they’re smart, they’re technically very good. But let’s see if we can put our most ruthless, accurate, aggressive performance ever together.

“Bongi, before the scrum, look that guy in the eye and say, ‘I’m going to f*** you up’.

“Get yourself now in a very, very aggressive mindset.”

Later, in a piece to camera, the double-World Cup winning coach explained his methods.

“Now we can make it very, very personal. Emotional lasts four or five minutes, personal lasts 80 minutes,” he said.

The documentary also takes the viewer inside the room when South Africa planned to launch their 7/1 bench split of forwards and backs for the first time in World Cup history.

“It’s worth taking a big shot chance. My suggestion, is this,” he said, showing the 7/1 split on the screen.

“If we want the same dominance from Deon (Fourie), Ox (Nche) and Trevor (Nyakane), then you’ve got to have Jean Kleyn, RG (Snyman) and Kwagga (Smith) fresh. That’s what happened against New Zealand (when they first unveiled it).”

The former Munster supremo appears to be fixated on the Irish team, then world No 1, being perceived as a smart side.

“They’re No 1 in the world because… they get so much satisfaction out of, ‘We’re clever, ‘we’re clever’ and they are clever’,” he said to his fellow coaches.

“It’s almost that that lifts them, when something spectacular works out like a move of six different f***ing lines, they feel, ‘Now we’re clever, now we’re clever. Now we’ve f***ing got them’.

“They’ve very sharp, got a physical edge. Their plays, they have the right guys in the right spot every single time; the right guy, at the right ruck, the inside pass, the guys who runs perfect animation.

“(We need) Physicality, but it can’t be physicality without structure… if you don’t know your s***, you can’t f*** them up physically. Otherwise you could get a bunch of wrestlers and say to them, ‘Go and bugger up the opposition’.”

The match itself was described by Munster’s Snyman as “the toughest of my Test career”, with Ireland surviving a first-half onslaught and a late surge to win by five points.

Afterwards, Erasmus was furious.

“For me, there was not enough pain in their faces, not enough regret in their faces, not enough, ‘Hell, we f***ed this up’ in their faces,” he said in a piece to camera.

“When I walked down and Zombie was playing and I saw their faces and their happiness, I thought this was a bitter one to swallow.”

Former Ulster No 8 Duane Vermuelen knew what was coming.

“Before the start of the World Cup, Rassie said the Scotland game was the important one. If we lose to Ireland, it’s not a train smash. But I could see his face after the game: Rassie was p***ed,” he said.

In their Monday ‘reality check’ meeting, Erasmus unloaded on his players.

“Let’s prepare ourselves for some honesty, guys, management and players,” he said.

“Next week, we might all fly home. All of us. Just because maybe you or me, Rassie, were totally wrong because nobody pulled me up and said, ‘Hey, Rassie, you’re wrong’.

“You’re not f***ing clowns, you’re grown men with children … For f**k’s sake, we could be No 1 in the world. What the f*** is wrong with you? What’s wrong with you? Have you become bigger than the game?

“I promise you, Siya Kolisi is not the biggest thing in South Africa. South Africa is the biggest thing in South Africa.

“It’s not because we lost, it’s because it’s been brewing and brewing and brewing. All the beautiful songs that you sing, Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, it doesn’t matter – but you’re false. You pretend that you will die for your country, but you will not.”

It got the desired response, with the Springboks bouncing back to retain their crown.

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