Thu, 19 Sep 2019

Rassie's win record blossoming at good time

News24
21 Aug 2019, 23:40 GMT+10

Cape Town - It has almost been forgotten in the excitement of the drought-breaking Rugby Championship title triumph and (so far) smooth lead-up to his first World Cup.

But courtesy of the 2019 Springboks' unbeaten record from four matches so far, head coach Rassie Erasmus' win percentage rate is starting to shift into increasingly positive terrain.

Although only three of the results have been wins (twice against Argentina, once Australia, plus a draw against world champions New Zealand), the ever-improving consistency of the Boks has meant Erasmus has shifted from his first-season record of exactly 50 percent - seven wins, seven reverses from 14 Tests in 2018 - to 55.5 percent: now 10 wins from a total of 18 internationals.

That means he has leapfrogged, following the Loftus victory over the Pumas last Saturday, two of the post-isolation coaches to have presided over 10 Tests or more: Harry Viljoen (53.3) and Rudolf Straeuli (52.17).

Despite the bumpy ride in his maiden season last year, Erasmus had already ensured by the end of it he was well ahead of both predecessor Allister Coetzee (44 percent) and Ian McIntosh (33.33).

Now he is closing in more quickly than some may think on the Bok coaches with win percentage records in the sixties: Andre Markgraaff (61.54), Peter de Villiers (62.50) and Jake White and Heyneke Meyer (both almost 67).

The only ones still significantly further out of sight are Nick Mallett (71.05 percent) and Kitch Christie with his legendary 100 percent - 14 wins in as many matches including the 1995 World Cup spoils.

But the roster over the next few weeks seems extremely favourable for incumbent Erasmus to make further notable gains.

His charges next play Japan, in the last Test before RWC 2019 begins, in Saitama on September 6: despite the horror of that Brighton defeat to them at the last World Cup in the only bilateral clash to this point, the Boks will be heavily tipped to earn comfortable revenge.

If that happens, Erasmus will move up to a 57.89 percent win record.

Then comes the group stage of the World Cup, where there must be an excellent chance, even if they fall to cup-holders the All Blacks in the seismic Pool B opener, of South Africa then knocking over all of Namibia, Italy and Canada.

If the Boks do end the pool with three wins from four (and some might even argue that that is a pessimistic assumption, considering how dramatically the gap has closed again on the old NZ foe), Erasmus will, in all likelihood, sport a win percentage of 60.86 upon entry to the RWC knockout phase - 14 wins from 23 Tests in total under his tenure at that point.

Considering the broad "feelgood" vibe around Bok rugby at present, there'd be a case for saying it's the least he would deserve ...

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