Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Rassie reflects on French win: ‘We had to change things after 2022 loss’

SA Rugby's director has also credited the team's change in approach to refereeing that has seen their fortunes improve on that front.

The Springboks had to change things up on a number of fronts after their loss against France in Marseille last year, which helped them turn things around and clinch a 29-28 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal win over the hosts on Sunday, according to SA Rugby director Rassie Erasmus.

On that occasion during the 2022 end-of-year-tour the Boks suffered a first half red card to Pieter-Steph du Toit, but stayed in the fight to eventually go down 30-26.

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With the odds then stacked against them going into their knockout clash against the hosts at the Stade de France on Sunday night, in front of a packed partisan crowd, the Boks pulled off the great escape to emerge with a one point win.

Change of fortunes

Their change of fortunes was due to a shift in mindset after the loss in 2022, which has set the Boks on a different path.

“Post that last French game (November 2022), I tweeted a few tweets and a lot of people said it was controversial,” explained Erasmus.

“But I can remember my caption there was ‘we will have to adapt and make things clearer for referees, we can’t just rely on mauling, scrumming and close-contact work where it is very difficult for the referee to make the correct decision.’

“Because it’s very dynamic and it’s busy and there’s a little bit of grey areas there, so we had to adapt. Also, to try and score tries through more open, fluent, running rugby. And you could see in our try-scoring tally there’s a lot scored by our backs, more than our forwards.”


Erasmus continued: “If you only rely on a certain aspect of the game which is very tough for the referee to referee and he gets two (decisions) wrong, but you only relying on those three or four of five opportunities that you get, 50 per cent of your opportunities are gone.

“But if you fire shots in open play, general play from the top of lineouts or counter-attack, it’s clearer decisions for the referee and easier to make.

“As a team we don’t want to be this wonderful playing-rugby team that the whole world loves, but we do want to score tries.”

Different ref approach

Erasmus also credited their change in approach to refereeing that has seen their fortunes improve on that front, with Eben Etzebeth’s yellow card for a head clash against France the first card the Boks have picked up in five games at the World Cup.

“As you know, we have changed our whole approach. I think I’ve mentioned it. Actually this morning we chatted to (former referee) Nigel Owens again. We conceded six penalties,” said Erasmus.

“Since we’ve changed our way, no matter if we are correct and the referees are wrong, respect must always be shown. 

“Our whole motto has been let’s respect the referees. It works both ways. He’s going to make mistakes, we’re going to make mistakes.

“The frustration we had in the past, and the lack of communication because of various things with Covid … that is in the past. There’s a nice protocol in place, it’s easy to communicate to them.”

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