Surprise, surprise. Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus can select whomever he wants; it doesn't matter where in the world they play rugby. SARU president Mark Alexander on Thursday confirmed that the union has scrapped its overseas-based "30-Test" player policy that was applicable under Allister Coetzee.
"He has just 18 Tests in which to prepare for the World Cup, so we gave him grace. Rassie is in his last year of preparation before the World Cup, so he can select any overseas-based player," said Alexander.
"Rassie has already spoken to a few players who are playing overseas. From now until the World Cup, he wants to give as many players as possible the chance to show what they can do for the Boks."
One can't help but think that Erasmus is running SA Rugby, with CEO Jurie Roux and Alexander just along for the ride. The scrapping of the 30-Test rule is just one example that SA Rugby is willing to do anything to accommodate Erasmus. Getting an unprecedented six-year contract as coach and being given carte blanche to select his own management team are others.
The job of Springbok coach can be taxing, and needs a person who is focused on this job and this job alone. Not Erasmus — he also holds the post of director of rugby, in which he is in charge of all national teams.
What if the investment in Rassie Erasmus does not pay off? Will SA Rugby have the backbone to get rid of him? I don't think so...
The point of this column is simply to ask, with all the bending over backwards to accommodate Erasmus, will this, in fact, improve the Boks' performance on the field? Anything will be better than the 44 percent win ratio under Coetzee, but what if Erasmus fails as both coach and director of rugby? Does SA Rugby have the backbone to get rid of him?
With him coaching the Springboks, it will be easy to spot when the team is not doing well, and the public demands his head — but as director of rugby, who will we hold accountable if the Junior Boks do not perform at the Under-20 World Cup in June?
Who will we blame if the Blitzbokke fail to defend their World Rugby Sevens title successfully? When will women's rugby finally be given the same resources as men's, to ensure that they are competitive on the international circuit?
Who gets the criticism if our SA school teams underperform, given the fact we have some of the best schoolboy talent in the world?
This is a lot to ask of one man — a man also tasked with "winning" the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year.
My question again: what if the investment in Rassie Erasmus does not pay off? Will SA Rugby have the backbone to get rid of him? I don't think so...
Erasmus immediate task will be against Wales on June 2 — a game that will be played in the USA — and then a three-match home series against England.