JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jun 27 – Shy Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus refused to accept the 2019 Rugby World Cup trophy with skipper Siya Kolisi in Japan, TV footage has revealed eight months after the final.
It shows Kolisi, the first black player to captain South Africa, going behind his team-mates and pleading with Erasmus to come forward and share the special moment.
But Erasmus, who transformed the national team from a laughing stock to world champions within 18 months of succeeding sacked Allister Coetzee, refused to budge.
The footage captures Kolisi making an impassioned plea to his coach to come forward with him after South Africa had beaten England 32-12 in the final in Yokohama.
Kolisi eventually returned to the front of the stage and raised the trophy to mark the third time the Springboks had conquered the world after 1995 and 2007.
As the TV cameras zoomed in on the celebrating Springboks, there was initially no sign of former Springbok Erasmus, a loose forward capped 36 times between 1997 and 2001.
A close friend of Erasmus, who requested anonymity, told AFP that the incident symbolises a coach who shunned the limelight and wanted to let his players to share it.
“I have seen the footage and it is so typical of Rassie. To him, winning the World Cup was all about the team,” he said.
“Recalling the past, the areas of rugby Rassie liked least both as a player and a coach were press conferences and media attention.
– ‘Very private person’ –
“He is a very private person who considers the team comes first and that is why all those Springbok players respect him so much.”
It was the second time this week that Erasmus made headlines regarding the 2019 World Cup with SA Rugby admitting the coach battled a life-threatening illness during the tournament.
Unknown to most of his 31-strong squad, the coach suffered from microscopic polyangiitis with granulomatosis, which can affect vital organs such as the kidneys and lungs.
While the disease is not cancerous, the coach suffered a rare strain of it that was potentially fatal, according to his doctor, Johan Theron.
“Rassie was treated for a serious condition in 2019, from which he has recovered,” SA Rugby said. “He thanks people for their concern but wishes to keep the matter private.”
Springbok World Cup winner Francois Louw said: “Rassie does not want everybody talking about him because his outlook is that everything is about team success and not individual issues.
“He is the type of person that does not look for sympathy or empathy. Only his inner circle were aware of his condition.
“When I recall his work as head coach before and during the World Cup, you could never tell anything was wrong with him. I was one of the few players who knew about his condition.”
Erasmus left his temporary position as head coach after the World Cup and returned to his original director of rugby post, overseeing all national male and female teams.
Jacques Nienaber, the defence coach in the triumphant 2019 World Cup Springboks and the right-hand man of Erasmus, has been appointed head coach.