Rassie Erasmus

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Rassie Erasmus
Birth nameJohan Erasmus
Date of birth (1972-11-05) 5 November 1972 (age 50)
Place of birthDespatch, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Height1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
SchoolHoërskool Despatch
UniversityUniversity of the Free State
Occupation(s)Director of Rugby, head coach
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker, Number 8
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1994–98, 2001–03
Free State
Golden Lions
Correct as of 1 August 2018
Super Rugby
Years Team Apps (Points)
Free State
Correct as of 16 October 2007
International career
Years Team Apps (Points)
1997–2001 South Africa 36 (35)
Correct as of 16 October 2007
Coaching career
Years Team
Free State Cheetahs
South Africa (Technical Adviser)
Western Province
South Africa (Technical Specialist)
South Africa (Director of Rugby)
South Africa

Johan "Rassie" Erasmus (born 5 November 1972) is a South African rugby union coach and former player. He was the head coach of the South African national team from 2018 to the end of their 2019 World Cup campaign, doubling up on his duties as the first ever SARU Director of Rugby, to which he was appointed towards the end of 2017. He led South Africa to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and he subsequently won the 2019 World Rugby Coach of the Year award.

Erasmus played for the Free State, the Golden Lions, Cats and the Stormers. He won 36 caps for South Africa between 1997 and 2001, including playing at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

As a coach, he has worked with Free State Cheetahs, Western Province and had spells as an adviser to the South Africa national team. He is also the former Director of Rugby of Irish provincial side Munster, and previously served as General Manager of High Performance Teams for the South African Rugby Union.

Playing career[edit]

Erasmus started his elite rugby career with the Free State during the 1994 Currie Cup. By the turn of professionalism in rugby union in 1995, Erasmus continued to develop as a leading loose forward for his province, and was selected for the Free State's debut season in the 1997 Super 12. By July 1997, he had been called up for national duties with the Springboks ahead of the 1997 British Lions tour to South Africa. With the series already won by the Lions ahead of the third test, Erasmus made his test debut on 5 July in Johannesburg, which the home side won 35–16. In his second match for the Springboks, on 23 August that same year, Erasmus played Australia, starting at flank, and scored a try, with South Africa winning 61–22 in Pretoria. Erasmus featured in 15 of the 17-match consecutive win streak the Springboks recorded between 1997 and late 1998. Had it not been for a 13–7 defeat by England on their 1998 tour, the Springboks would have completed a first Grand Slam tour since their 1960–61 tour. During that time, South Africa secured their first Tri Nations title in 1998, with four from four victories.[citation needed]

Having firmly established himself as a starting flanker for South Africa, Erasmus joined the Cats ahead of the 1998 Super 12 season, where he continued to ply his trade until 2001. He was captain between 1999 and 2000, which saw the Cats make the 2000 Super 12 season semi-finals, only to lose to the Brumbies 28–5. In 2001, he was controversially stripped of his captaincy during season by coach Laurie Mains.[1] Despite making the semi-finals again that season, both Erasmus and Mains departed the club at the end of the season, with reports citing their relationship one of the reasons.[2]

In 1999, Erasmus was made captain for a single test against Australia during the 1999 Tri Nations Series. He was later named in the 30-man squad for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. He played in all but one game during the World Cup, which saw the Springboks bow out in the semi-final, losing to eventual champions, Australia 27–21, after extra time. In the third-place play-off, South Africa defeated New Zealand 22–18 to take third place.[citation needed]

After leaving the Cats at the end of the 2001 Super 12 season, and missing out on selection for the 2001 Tri Nations Series, Erasmus returned to the Free State ahead of the 2001 Currie Cup. Later that year he was selected for the Barbarians match against Australia, but withdrew due to injury. After a stop-start season in 2003, being brought in by the Stormers for their 2003 Super 12 season, Erasmus retired at the end of the season after a professional career lasting almost ten years.[citation needed]

Coaching and management career[edit]

Coaching in South Africa[edit]

Erasmus' coaching career began in 2004, after he became the head coach of his previous club, Free State Cheetahs, for the 2004 Vodacom Cup. In his first stint at coaching, he led his side to Semi-Finals of the Cup, only to lose to the Blue Bulls 23–20. In 2005, he made the step up to Currie Cup, leading the Free State to glory during the 2005 season. It was the Cheetahs first Cup title since 1976. The following year, Erasmus led the Cheetahs into their debut season in the Super 14 competition, finishing in tenth place with five wins from thirteen. Later that year the Free State Cheetahs retained their Currie Cup title, however they had to share the trophy with the Blue Bulls after the score remained even after extra time, 28–28, and no other criteria separating the teams. Following the 2007 Super 14 season, Erasmus left the Cheetahs set up after being appointed technical adviser to the Springboks ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. However his time was cut short, after he joined the Western Province set-up as director of rugby effective immediately ahead of their 2007 Currie Cup campaign.[3][4]

He was also named the new Stormers head coach for the 2008 Super 14 season, where he helped improve the side to narrowly miss out on play-off places in the semi-final - lifting the team from their tenth place in 2007 to fifth in 2008. By mid 2009, Western Province and the Stormers revamped their structure, which saw Erasmus become a Senior professional coach for the region, and Allister Coetzee introduced as head coach for the province and Super Rugby side.[5] With this new system, the region gained great success in 2010, with both the Stormers and Western Province progressing to the finals, only to lose to come runner-up in their respective tournaments. Whilst in 2011, the Stormers became the leading South African side, topping their conference a making the semi-finals for a second consecutive year.[citation needed]

In April 2011, it was announced that Erasmus will be part of the Springboks management team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup as a technical specialist.[6] South Africa was knocked out by Australia in the quarter-finals, losing 9–11. Despite that he was meant to return to his duties with the Stormers and Western Province post World Cup, he quit the region in January 2012 to look for other coaching options.[7][8]

After Heyneke Meyer was named as Peter de Villiers' replacement in January 2012, Erasmus was appointed General Manager: High Performance teams, in April of that year.[9] Part of his role consists of acting as an assistant to Meyer when the Springboks are in training camps.

Move overseas[edit]

In April 2016, it was confirmed that Erasmus would be joining Irish provincial side Munster as the Director of Rugby on a three-year contract, beginning on 1 July 2016.[10] However, following the death of head coach Anthony Foley, Erasmus took on the duties of both Director of Rugby and head coach for the remainder of the season. He led his side to top of the pool 1 in the European Rugby Champions Cup finishing in second seed overall to advance to the Quarter-finals. There they beat Toulouse, 41–16, before losing to Saracens 26–10 in the semi-finals. The 2016–17 Pro12 proved more successful, topping the table at the end of the regular season with 19 victories, and defeating the Ospreys 23–3 in the semi-finals. Despite going into the final favorites, Munster were convincingly beaten by the Scarlets in the final, losing 46–22 at the Aviva Stadium.

On 7 May 2017, Erasmus won the 2016–17 Pro12 Coach of the Season award, an honour that was given to him at Guinness Pro12 Awards dinner in the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin.[11]

South Africa Director of Rugby[edit]

On 30 June 2017, it was confirmed that Erasmus would be leaving Munster in December 2017 to become South Africa's Director of Rugby, a position that has never been filled at SARU.[12][13]

Head coach of South Africa[edit]

Following the sacking of Allister Coetzee in February 2018, Erasmus was named head coach of the national team, alongside his duties as Director of Rugby at SA Rugby, on 1 March 2018.[14]

In his first match in charge, Erasmus gave thirteen players their first test cap, in a one-off match in Washington, D.C. against Wales, who won the test 22–20. A week later, he secured his first win, a 42–39 win over England, during their three-test series. The series title was clinched in the second test, with the Springboks winning 23–12, to secure a series victory. However, South Africa were unable to gain the clean-sweep, after losing the third test, 25–10. During the 2018 Rugby Championship, Erasmus led the Springboks to second, the highest they have been since 2014. The 2018 Championship saw South Africa win three games, including a thrilling 36–34 victory over New Zealand in Wellington, South Africa's first win in New Zealand since 2009. After winning the 2019 World Cup, Erasmus revealed that had the Springboks lost that match, he would have tendered his resignation:

"We [had recently] lost to Australia and Argentina, and if we didn't win in Wellington I would have resigned... I have never lost three games in a row as a coach and if I did that I don't deserve to be a Springbok coach. We played New Zealand in Wellington and that was important, as if we lost it I wouldn't be here."[15]

South Africa came within moments of reclaiming the Freedom Cup in the final round, but a try by Ardie Savea in the dying moments of the game helped New Zealand snatch victory 32–30 in Pretoria and retain the cup.

The 2018 end-of-year tour for South Africa saw the team face mixed result; losing to England and Wales whilst beating France and Scotland. Following the tour, Erasmus stated that after the 2019 World Cup he would cease as head coach and revert to solely his Director of Rugby role.[16][17]

The 2019 Rugby Championship saw the Springboks claim their fourth Southern Hemisphere title, their first since the inception of The Rugby Championship and their first since 2009. This came on the back of victories over Australia and Argentina, and a first draw with New Zealand since 1994.[citation needed]

The 2019 Rugby World Cup saw South Africa claim one of their greatest victories by winning the title for a third time despite a loss to New Zealand in the group stages. Victory over England in the final, after dispatching Japan and a grind-out victory over Wales in the knock-out stages, saw South Africa lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Tokyo.[citation needed]

International matches as head coach[edit]

Note: World Rankings Column shows the World Ranking South Africa was placed at on the following Monday after each of their matches

Record by Country[edit]

Opponent Played Won Drew Lost Win ratio (%) For Against
 Argentina 4 3 0 1 075.00 123 84
 Australia 3 2 0 1 066.67 119 105
 Canada 1 1 0 0 100.00 66 7
 England 5 3 0 2 060.00 118 100
 France 1 1 0 0 100.00 29 26
 Italy 1 1 0 0 100.00 49 3
 Japan 2 2 0 0 100.00 67 10
 New Zealand 4 1 1 2 025.00 95 105
 Namibia 1 1 0 0 100.00 57 3
 Scotland 1 1 0 0 100.00 26 20
 Wales 3 1 0 2 033.33 50 58
TOTAL 26 17 1 8 065.38 756 468

Coaching approach[edit]

Erasmus feels that factors affecting rugby success are consistency in selection, rhythm and momentum, having few injuries, and luck (as top level games are often very close and can depend on one bounce of a ball or penalty).[18][19][20] He plans long-term.[21] He tends to be very open about his opinions, both in his playing group and with the media.[22]

If his team wins a game, Erasmus wears the same shirt for the next game.[23]


Erasmus is known to be very critical of referees after the games; his many complaints and accusations cost him a two-month ban by World Rugby in November 2021 after he had hit out at refereeing displays during the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in a clip.[24] He was found guilty by a misconduct committee of "attacking, disparaging and/or denigrating the game and match officials and not accepting the authority of match officials".[24]

He is also famous for his use of social media where he often sarcastically complains about refereeing after he started a Twitter account in the wake of 2019 Rugby World Cup.[25] Three months before his suspension, he was suspected of using a burner account to air out his grievances against referees Nic Berry and Ben O'Keeffe.[26] In 2022, he posted several videos shared with ironic messages on his official Twitter account to complain about referee calls after Springboks losses to Ireland on 5 November,[27] and France a week later.[28] Former international referee Nigel Owens condemned Erasmus' behaviour following the controversy,[29] after many other columnists criticized him and called these kind of comments "bitter" or "ridiculous".[30][31][32] On 17 November, he was suspended by World Rugby again and was banned for two matches.[33] A few weeks after the feud, referee Wayne Barnes revealed that his family were threatened following Erasmus' tweets; his wife receiving rape threats and his kids being targeted for a few days.[34]




Free State



  • Pro12
  • Pro12 Coach of the Season award
    • Winner: 2017

South Africa


  1. ^ "Mains, Erasmus deny talk of Cat-fight in camp". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Cats' Erasmus confirms fallout with Laurie Mains". NZ Herald. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  3. ^ "Rassie out of World Cup – Ou Grote Rugby". Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  4. ^ "Saru, WP set poor example". News24. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  5. ^ Stormers retain coaching & management team
  6. ^ "Rassie Erasmus to work with Boks at world cup". Rugby Week | Rugby News, Rugby Video & Fixtures. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Rassie shocks WP by quitting". Sport. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  8. ^ "Rassie quits Stormers". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  9. ^ Rassie appointed to Saru management
  10. ^ "Director of Rugby Appointed". munsterrugby.ie. 25 April 2016. Archived from the original on 27 April 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Erasmus Honoured at Guinness PRO12 Awards". munsterrugby.ie. 8 May 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Confirmed: Rassie Erasmus to leave Munster for Springbok Director of Rugby role". Irish Independent. 30 June 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Rassie Erasmus on Munster exit: 'If they say I must go tomorrow, then I will go'". Irish Examiner. 22 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  14. ^ Rassie Erasmus confirmed as new Springbok coach
  15. ^ "WELLINGTON WIN IN 2018 SAVED ERASMUS' CAREER". allblacks.com. 5 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Erasmus drops Springboks bombshell". rugbypass.com. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  17. ^ AAP (11 December 2018). "Erasmus to step down after Rugby World Cup | Latest Rugby News | RUGBY.com.au". rugby.com.au. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Rassie Erasmus laments Cheslin Kolbe injury-enforced absence". sarugbymag.co.za. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  19. ^ "Rassie will continue 'coaching'". rugby365.com. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  20. ^ Said, Sisipho Skweyiya and Nick. "Erasmus believes planning, execution and luck can win the World Cup". Reuters. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  21. ^ "'It was the highlight of my career' - Rassie Erasmus on Springboks stunning win". SportsJOE.ie. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  22. ^ writer, David Walsh, Chief sports. "South Africa captain Siya Kolisi at heart of team's transformation". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 1 June 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Reid, Alasdair. "Rugby World Cup: Pragmatic Rassie Erasmus shows no signs of changing South Africa's approach". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  24. ^ a b Meagher, Gerard (17 November 2021). "Rassie Erasmus banned from rugby for two months over Lions tour conduct". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  25. ^ Smith, Sam (26 July 2021). "Erasmus' social media presence under suspicion over a burner account". Rugby Pass. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  26. ^ Louw, Wynona (27 July 2021). "Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus says 'Jaco Johan' is not his Twitter 'burner account'". IOL. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  27. ^ "'Bitter' Rassie Erasmus calls out referee decision yet again on Twitter". Ruck. 6 November 2022. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  28. ^ Westerby, John (13 November 2022). "Rassie Erasmus launches video tirade at referee Wayne Barnes after France defeat". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  29. ^ Morgan, Charlie (14 November 2022). "Nigel Owens slams Rassie Erasmus after Springbok chief's latest referee rant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  30. ^ Richardson, Charles (6 November 2022). "Rassie Erasmus is up to his old, wicked tricks with referees". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  31. ^ Stanley, Colmán (6 November 2022). "A bitter Rassie Erasmus questions referee in Twitter video after Ireland loss". Balls.ie. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  32. ^ Keohane, Mark (14 November 2022). "Rassie's rotten referee rants deserve to be ridiculed". KEO.co.za. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  33. ^ Meagher, Gerard (17 November 2022). "Rassie Erasmus suspended by World Rugby again over social media rants". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  34. ^ Morgan, Charlie (14 December 2022). "Wayne Barnes says his family were threatened after Rassie Erasmus criticism". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 December 2022.

External links[edit]

Preceded by World Rugby Coach of the Year
Succeeded by
Sporting positions
Preceded by Springbok Captain
Succeeded by
Preceded by South Africa National Rugby Union Coach
Succeeded by