Cheetahs

Erasmus: ‘Where I went wrong’

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Rassie Erasmus, who has one game left as Cheetahs head coach before moving on to become a technical advisor on Springbok coach Jake White’s national panel, has admitted that much of the blame for the Cheetahs’ poor season could possibly be laid at his door.

In a frank interview , upon his team’s return from a winless five-match Australasian tour, Erasmus said as a coach you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Erasmus’s final game before moving on to the national team is against the Lions at Ellis Park this coming Saturday.

However, upon his team’s return from abroad he reflected on a disappointing season in which they have managed just three wins in 12 starts – meaning they will definitely finish with a worse record than their debut year in 2006, when they recorder five victories.

“Obviously I would have liked it differently,” Erasmus told this website.

“However, when it’s the good times you take it and enjoy the praise. When the ride is jolly you enjoy it, but when the ride gets bumpy you must also take it. You learn from it and grow,” Erasmus added.

The 34-year-old coach – who took up fulltime coaching at the tender age of 32 and won the Currie Cup in his first year – said he is not in the game of pointing fingers and laying blame for what went wrong with the Cheetahs this year.

“We must acknowledge that we didn’t improve the way we wanted from last year. It was a very poor season for us, and that’s the bottom line,” Erasmus added.

Asked what he though the reasons are for the team’s slump after a promising start to the season – five straight defeats and eight losses in their last nine matches – he said part of it could be a change in tactics.

“Last year we were relatively solid on defence, we had a very good kicking game and were basically a very defensive team,” Erasmus said.

“I said to the guys we can’t become a team that will finish in the top half of the Super 14 standings by just kicking goals and not scoring tries.

“This year we’ve scored more tries than last year, but we simply don’t win the games and even the tight games are not going our way. We played a more expansive game, but our defence took a hell of a dip as a result. There were games in which we created plenty of opportunities, but we simply didn’t finish off our opportunities.”

He was also very frank about what he felt were the aspects he could improve on in the future.

“From a coaching perspective the thing I’ve struggled with most this season is to teach the guys to make the right decisions on attack and to finish the chances they create.

“From week five/six we realised that was an issue and we spent a lot of time with it, but it just didn’t come off.

“That is something I will have to work on in my coaching for the future … the general attack.

“Our structures – how we create opportunities, how we get ball, our set phases, the pressure we put on other teams in set phases, contesting in line-outs, etc – and the structural aspects are all sound and in place.

“However, our general attack was very disappointing for me. It is not that we didn’t have opportunities and that we didn’t create it.

“We need to give the players the confidence to back himself in the decisions that he takes, or to teach them to take the right decisions.
“We can say it is something that a player can’t learn, or something the coach taught him badly, or something the player can’t do – it can be any of those.

“However, I prefer to say that in the Super 14 I didn’t have the ability to teach the players to make the right decisions.

“It is not just one or two chances we wasted it is 20 or 30 – there were plenty, it is tough.

“It is a combination, sometimes it is the coach, sometimes the player, sometimes coincidence or bad luck, but think it is more the first case.”

Erasmus said the Cheetahs won’t give up the fight and will go out against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday and play with heart.

He added that there is still a lot of pride left in the Cheetahs jersey and it will show on Saturday.

“The only game I can say we were pathetic in, was against the Reds. We were just very poor on the day.

“Even this past weekend [a record 17-45 loss to the Western Force in Perth] the guys tried. The Force were simply better than us. There certainly wasn’t a lack of commitment or effort.

“That is what we’ll look for on Saturday when we face a very committed Lions team.

“We have just arrived home after a very long tour and we have a 3pm [15.00] game on Saturday … at altitude at Ellis Park. It will require a big effort and it will be a tough game.

“However, we are preparing for it like any other Super 14 game, to go and win. We still have a lot of pride left and we want to show that on the field on Saturday.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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