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Erasmus warns against SA complacency

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New Springbok assistant coach Rassie Erasmus has warned South Africans against underestimating England when they face the Springboks in the first test of a two-match series on Saturday.

England, without more than 30 of their first-choice players, face the Boks in Bloemfontein on Saturday May 26 and Pretoria a week later.

The two-match series is seen as crucial to the team’s World Cup prospects, where they will again meet in the pool stages in France in September.

Almost the entire England pack that featured in the Six Nations tournament were ruled out of the trip two South Africa because they were involved in London Wasps’ 25-9 win over Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup Final last Saturday – four days after England had departed for South Africa.

A number of other players – forwards and backs – were also ruled out through injury, leaving coach Brian Ashton with a very depleted squad on tour.

However, Erasmus – who joined the Boks last week as a technical advisor after coaching the Cheetahs in the Super 14 and Currie Cup competition for the past few years – warned that this England team should not be underestimated.

While it will be tough for England to cope without 30 of their frontline stars, Erasmus felt South Africa also have some issues to deal with.

“Considering that a lot of the [Springbok] players played in the Super 14 Final [between the Bulls and Sharks last Saturday] and most of the boys only have four or five days to prepare [for the first Tests], it is just as tough for us,” Erasmus said on Tuesday.

“Then, if you look at the individuals that are in this England squad, you will see that those forwards have been playing in England’s Premiership for quite a few years now.

“These are the hard men of English rugby that are coming over here.

“Also, I think they can select an awesome backline – with guys like [Jonny] Wilkinson, [Jason], Robinson [the captain] and all those guys. They have plenty of experience and it will be by no means an easy game for us,” Erasmus added.

He said while the short turnaround between the Super 14 Final and the first Test is not ideal, he does not regard it as an unsurmountable problem.

“It would have been better if we had two or three weeks, but it is awesome to have had two teams in the Super 14 Final, so to moan about that [short turnaround] simply wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

“We just have to cope with it and produce our best rugby on Saturday.

“At the end of the day, if we play well we should win the game.”

Erasmus also dismissed the notion that the Bok team would struggle to gel as a unit, considering that the bulk of the side would have been battering each other into submission in a very physical and tough Super 14 Final just a few days ago.

“Not really, I don’t see it as a problem.

“To put the Springbok jumper on would be the ultimate for any rugby player.

“Although you won a Super 14 final or narrowly lost a Super 14 final it doesn’t really make a difference in the greater scheme of things.

“When at the end of the year if you hold up the World Cup the Sharks players wouldn’t say listen we lost the Super 14 Final … they would say we won a world cup.

“For them to get into the World Cup squad mix is awesome and you can see it at training in the way they have been training.

“I certainly can’t see any ill-feeling between those two teams [Bulls and Sharks] and they’re really up for this game and the whole of South Africa can be proud of them.”

Erasmus also spoke about his return to the Bok team, albeit this time in a coaching capacity.

Having retired from playing the game only about three years ago, he joined Jake White’s Bok coaching staff after the completion of the Super 14 tournament and joined up with them in Bloemfontein last week.

“I’m very honoured to wear the Springbok badge ag

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