Paarl Boys’ director of rugby Sean Erasmus must be introduced into the professional ranks sooner rather than later, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Erasmus is a fantastic coach. Note, he’s not a fantastic schoolboy coach but a fantastic young coach, who has done the hard yards where it matters most. And he has certainly done his apprenticeship with aplomb.
Most of the great professional coaches have some form of schoolboy connection with 2007 and 2011 World Cup winners Jake White and Graeme Henry’s formative years tied in with the traditions and disciplines of schoolboy rugby.
White’s Gauteng roots are well documented with Jeppe Boys’ High and with the schools and U19 structures within the Gauteng region. He then went on to win the U21 World Cup as SA coach and reached the pinnacle of any professional coaching career with his Springbok success at the 2007 World Cup.
Subsequently he has won the Australian Super Rugby conference with the Brumbies and took them to a final in New Zealand against the Chiefs. He won the South African Super Rugby conference with the Sharks and took them to a semi-final in New Zealand against the Crusaders.
White, in only his second season in charge at French Top 14 club Montpellier, also guided the side to a historic European Challenge Cup title and a semi-final in the Top 14 after his team finished third in the league.
Henry, headmaster and head of rugby at Kelston Boys’ High in Auckland, also enjoyed success with Auckland, the Blues and the All Blacks. He coached Wales to a famous victory against the Springboks in 1999 and led the British & Irish Lions on tour to Australia.
Henry and White are the benchmark of those professional coaches who have come through the schools system and Erasmus is from that grouping of schools coach who has the potential to enjoy a professional CV that could be the envy of most. His schools and junior rugby CV already is something special.
Erasmus coached at every level at the Sharks, from U12 to U19, and enjoyed club success with Collegians and an introduction to professional rugby in the Vodacom Cup. He was the standout coach at Jake White’s ‘Coaching the Coaches’ courses and has attended the various Investec International Academy courses.
Erasmus’s coaching apprenticeship has primarily been in Kwazulu-Natal, where he turned Glenwood into a powerhouse and ensured the Sharks junior schools and academy were among the elite in the country.
Erasmus three seasons ago took on the massive challenge of overseeing rugby at Paarl Boys’ High, who in the last two years have been unbeaten in 40 matches, the South African No 1 schools side in 2015 and 2016, and won back-to-back interschools derbies against rivals Paarl Gymnasium, with Saturday’s 26-25 win completing the most incredible last two seasons. He was also recently named SA Schools A team head coach.
Erasmus could also take pleasure from 13 of his team being selected for the champion WP Craven Week team and eight of the players making the SA Schools squad.
Erasmus’s contract with Paarl Boys’ High ends at the end of the year and his is a talent that now has to be transferred to the professional coaching ranks.
His maturity and evolvement won’t benefit from continued coaching at schoolboy level. He needs the bigger challenge of professionalism.
Too few of South Africa’s provincial and regional coaches have done their apprenticeship through the schools and junior structures.
Erasmus, like White, is the exception and like White, this is a rugby brain that has the potential to inspire and succeed in any professional environment.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images