Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer


Rassie backing the Bulls against Leinster, happy to play Test outside window

Erasmus believes the better the local franchises become in the URC, the more it will benefit the national team.


Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is fully behind the Bulls in their quest to reach the United Rugby Championship (URC) final, despite not having their players available for the first Bok Test of the season against Wales at Twickenham next weekend.

With the Bulls taking on Leinster in the competition semifinal at Loftus on Saturday afternoon, even if they were knocked out, it would be too late for the vast majority of their players to be involved in the Bok squad.

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Erasmus believes the better the local franchises become in the URC, the more it will benefit the national team, so he is hopeful that the Bulls will progress to the showpiece final.

“All countries are striving to have a franchise like Leinster. They do sometimes lose big matches but they are consistently in the top four, host a final or reach the final and semifinal stage, and that transfers into the national team,” explained Erasmus.

“For us, if the Bulls can pull this one through, which I think it’s going to be really, really tough, but if they can pull it through, we’re fully behind them.

“As much as I would love to have them (their players) in our camp and be with us every single minute since Monday, if it means we have to do without the Bulls, and a SA franchise goes through, I think that’s very important.

“It’ll boost us overall to eventually get Champions Cup victories and so on. The URC is another stepping stone and it’s not only the Stormers. So (the game) is vitally important.”

International window

The problem for the Boks is that the Welsh game is being played outside of the international window, and is also played at a neutral venue.

Despite difficulties arising from that, in not having their Europe and UK based players available, as well as the local players still involved in the URC, Erasmus is still a fan of having a game outside the window and enjoys the challenge of picking a side for it.

“We enjoy these games. At the end of the day when the result comes out it counts as a Test match. We obviously don’t have all our players available and neither do the Welsh, I think they have six or seven playing in the (English) Premiership,” said Erasmus.

“Sometimes you get to two weeks before the Test match and you think if the Bulls, Stormers and Lions go through will we even have a squad for the match.

“But when you start drawing up the names you see the depth that we do have in South Africa. There are quite a few players who could have been in this squad, but we just didn’t have space.

“So we like these Tests (outside the window), and even if the Bulls, Stormers and Lions players were unavailable, I still think we would have been able to put 28 players on the plane (to England).”

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