“I’d rather be in our position than Ireland’s” – Rassie Erasmus

ABOVE: Siya Kolisi of South Africa leads their team out of the tunnel prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Tonga at Stade Velodrome on October 01, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Michael Steele – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Comments from South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and assistant coach Deon Davids after the 49-18 Pool B victory over Tonga in Marseille.

Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby

On replacement for winger Makazole Mapimpi, who has been ruled out of Rugby World Cup 2023 after injury against Tonga:

“We know who we are going to call up to replace him but we first have to notify World Rugby. I’m sorry, I would love to tell you who it is.

“It’s sad that something like that happened. It was an accident. He has a fractured eye socket, a blow-out fracture. His eye is swollen and the cheekbone is also fractured I think. I think he’s out for four to six weeks.

“We will not just miss him as a brilliant rugby player but what he brings to the team. There is a lot of heart, a lot of honesty. He doesn’t say a lot but when he says something everybody listens. He trains hard, communicates beautifully on the field whilst he is really quiet off the field. He never moans if he is not selected and helps the young boys who get selected.

“If we get to the final we will definitely fly him back to join the rest of us here. The same with the other guys who got injuries and went back to South Africa. It’s sad but that’s the game of rugby. Those collisions happen.”

On if seven-one bench split still an option after fly-halves Handre Pollard and Manie Libbok both had good games against Tonga:

“Unfortunately for Handre it’s only the one game he has played. Manie had proved himself the way he has played in general play for us. Handre made four kicks and Manie three kicks so we kicked seven out of seven. It’s a tough call we will have to make. If we go five-three, maybe both can be in the mix. If we go six-two it’s a possibility, if we go seven-one then things might look a little different.

“Internally, we will only announce team (if in quarter-finals) next Sunday, then as quick as we can in the test match week. On Saturday, after the Scotland v Ireland game we will know exactly who we will play. If we are in first place we play the following Saturday, if second we play the next Sunday so we will have a seven day turnaround.”

On if coaches had been working with Libbok on his time management of the shot-clock with his kicks:

“I won’t take any credit with that. If somebody helped him it would be ‘Stokke’ (Mzwandile Stick, assistant coach). We know it’s a nice talking point and (kicking) wins games. Yes, it true.

“But tries also wins games and the way we play is to try and score tries. I really think we have been attacking much better, like the country has asked us to do and the supporters are always wanting us to be more creative and not just have this kicking game.

“Manie brings that to us. He certainly has worked hard with Handre and maybe it’s Handre who gave him a tip or two. I don’t think the shot clock was ever an issue with him and Manie is a very interesting character when it comes to something like that.

“It doesn’t bother him for the rest of his game and that is something special to have. It would be nice to have him on the park for that general play and if he is on song and fantastic with his kicking, but somebody else who can back him up if he does have a bad day.”

Andre Esterhuizen of South Africa runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Pita Ahki of Tonga during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Tonga at Stade Velodrome on October 01, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Michael Steele – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

On if he has looked at permutations from Ireland v Scotland game to ensure South Africa qualify:

“Basically, as I understand it, if Scotland beat Ireland by more than eight points and Ireland don’t get a bonus point then Ireland is out. We would be first, Scotland second and Ireland out. If Scotland beat Ireland 8-0, Ireland are out. 

“That’s how I see it. I was thinking about that a lot last night.

“The other permutation, which is the interesting one, is when all three of us are on 15 points. Then the team with the best net-o points (points difference) first of all goes through.  If Scotland’s net-o points is the best, then Scotland will go through and we will fall out as Ireland beat us. First it goes to net-o points, then for the second team it is who beat who.

“For that to happen Scotland must score four tries and beat Ireland by more than 20 points and Ireland must get one bonus point somehow. There are three or four very interesting permutations. But if I was Scotland I’d just want to beat them by eight points and not even score a try.

“If I was Ireland I’d definitely make sure they beat them. If Ireland finish first on net-o points then we go through as we beat Scotland.”

On being in situation of having one foot in quarter-finals but could still go out:

“With full humbleness, and there is no arrogance saying this, but I’d rather sit here than be Ireland knowing that we’ve been number one in the world all the time and Scotland basically just have to beat them by eight points and they are out of the tournament.

“The score could be 22-12 or 22-13 and Ireland are out of the competition if they don’t get a bonus point. Of the three teams we are probably the most comfortable sitting here knowing we have got a two week rest. Look, maybe we have got six months rest if the cards don’t fall our way.

“We have got two weeks off where we can analyse all three teams that we can possibly play. I always thought the Ireland-Scotland game was going to be nervy, just like the France-Italy game will be nervy. I know everybody writes off Italy and though Italy are not used to playing against southern hemisphere teams they are used to playing against northern hemisphere teams. There are going to be some interesting permutations still in the rest of this World Cup.”

Deon Davids, assistant coach

On being in situation of having one foot in quarter-finals but could still go out:

“We have done what we had to do in order to put ourselves in position to go through. We have time now to prepare, as we always do, for different scenarios. Some of us will prepare with an eye on us finishing first, but we will have to prepare for the All Blacks if we finish second.

“In the scenarios now, it might be France as France and Italy still have to play which is always an interesting battle. We also have to have some guys preparing in case we have to play Italy so it’s making sure we cover all our bases. “

© World Rugby Limited

Related articles

Feinberg-Mngomezulu staying a Stormer

Mercurial backline talent Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu has signed a contract extension that will keep him in a DHL Stormers jersey until […]