The two sides of Rassie Erasmus, the puppet master pulling South Africa’s strings at Rugby World Cup
The mind games began on Sunday night. South Africa had just booked their place in the last four of the Rugby World Cup, pipping France in an instant classic in Paris, and the Springboks’ director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, was straight on social media to start his game week stirring.
As Erasmus searched for England Rugby’s account on X, formerly Twitter, and clicked the follow button, he knew he would be noticed. At the time of writing, South Africa’s opponents on Saturday are the only account that Erasmus follows. The 50-year-old has form – before Ireland and Scotland’s decisive Pool B encounter, the two Celtic nations were the sole occupiers of the coach’s ‘following’ feed.
Such social media tomfoolery will matter little come Saturday but speaks to Erasmus’s unique approach to life and rugby. The architect of South Africa’s World Cup triumph four years ago as head coach, Erasmus has since stepped up into a directorial role, with former assistant Jacques Nienaber taking on head coach duties.
The two sides of Rassie Erasmus, the puppet master pulling South Africa’s strings
Director of rugby Erasmus again has his team on the brink of World Cup glory after coaching them to victory in 2019
Rassie Erasmus predicts entire England team for World Cup semi-final as mind games begin
Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, has predicted the entire England team for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final as the mind games continue ahead of a rematch of the 2019 tournament final.
Erasmus was speaking to the media for a second consecutive day at the start of semi-final week at a press conference in Presles, 30 kilometres north of Paris.
Neither side is due to name their squad for the last four encounter until Thursday, but the former Springboks head coach arrived with a provisional fifteen he thought Steve Borthwick would be considering on a bit of paper.
Springboks director predicts England semi-final team as mind games begin
South Africa director of rugby believes England will make changes from their quarter-final win against Fiji as he soaked up the media spotlight ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final
South Africa edge thriller with France in quarter-finals
Ireland and New Zealand played out the greatest Rugby World Cup quarter-final of all time, which ended with 37 phases of Irish agony, and yet it took just 24 hours for that game to be bettered by France and South Africa.
It may not have been quite 37 phases, but France’s own final stand – desperately, fruitlessly searching for that decisive score to overcome the inevitable as the clock turns red – ended the same, heartbreaking way. French bodies dropped to the turf in despair, almost exactly mirroring their Irish counterparts from 24 hours earlier, and a southern hemisphere nation celebrated the ongoing World Cup domination over a northern hemisphere titan.
It’s safe to say that no stadium in history has hosted two better games of rugby in the space of one weekend than we’ve been treated to at the Stade de France. It’s also highly likely that no venue has ever witnessed two such incredible occasions, regardless of the sport, in as many days.
France suffer painful symmetry with Ireland as Springboks continue southern dominance
France 28-29 South Africa: Just 24 hours after Ireland endured quarter-final heartbreak in Paris, hosts France followed suit after an epic Rugby World Cup encounter
Experience will benefit South Africa says Nienaber
“This may not have much significance, but the fact remains that these players have been here before, and they know what it will take to defeat a top-quality team such as England,” explained Nienaber.
“Competition for places in the team is very tight and the coaches had a few in depth discussions before finalising the team.
“We have players like Lukhanyo Am, Canan Moodie, Andre Esterhuizen, Jasper Wiese, Jean Kleyn, and the list goes on, who are all good enough to be in this team and would have fitted in and done the job just well as the other players.
“But we can only select 23 and everyone in this group is aligned and understands that the country comes first. We are playing for our friends, family and the 60 million people at home who have been supporting us through thick and thin and we are determined to continue giving them hope and something to smile about.”
South Africa team to face England in World Cup semi-final
South Africa XV: 15-Damian Willemse, 14-Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Cheslin Kolbe, 10-Manie Libbok, 9-Cobus Reinach; 1-Steven Kitshoff, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 3-Frans Malherbe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 5-Franco Mostert, 6-Siya Kolisi, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8-Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16-Deon Fourie, 17-Ox Nche, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Kwagga Smith, 21-Faf de Klerk, 22-Handre Pollard, 23-Willie Le Roux.
Jacques Nienaber on his Springboks side
“We’ve been building a quality Rugby World Cup squad for the last few years so that we could be in this position going into the knockout matches,” said South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber.
“We have a squad of 33 players, all of whom are very closely matched in terms of their skill and quality of play which made it tempting to make changes this week and it was tough to select this group both last week and this week.
“But we feel it’s now time to go with the players in the squad who we believe are in their best form.”
South Africa name World Cup semi-final team against England
South Africa have named an unchanged side for their Rugby World Cup semi-final against England.
After pipping France in Paris last week, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus have kept faith with the same starting line-up and bench.
With 895 caps within the 23, it is the most experienced Springboks side in history, while this is only the second time since Erasmus and Nienaber’s arrival in 2018 that they have named an unchanged team.
South Africa name World Cup semi-final team against England
The most experienced Springboks side in history has been named for the game at the Stade de France
Rugby World Cup news
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup.
Steve Borthwick is going to name his matchday squad for England’s semi-final outing against South Africa later today as the hype starts to build up for the final few knockout matches of the 2023 tournament.
Argentina take on New Zealand in the first semi-final this Friday and the starting XVs were announced for that match yesterday. South Africa have already chosen their team for Saturday’s clash with England, picking an unchanged side from the one that defeated France last time out.
Throughout the day, we’ll have all the updates and latest news from France so stick around.
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