Rassie Stories about life and rugby – By Rassie Erasmus, David O’Sullivan

By Steuart Pennington

With RWC fever high I have been devouring Rassie Erasmus’ biography, excellently crafted by David O’sullivan. In part it is a book about rugby, but as the title says ‘it’s a book about life’. Rassie’s early days as a barefoot boytjie from little known Despatch and the backyard beginnings of his rugby career were deeply formative in his approach to both playing rugby and coaching rugby. His book also gives deep insights into the life of many top rugby players, many emerging from humble beginnings (Siya’s book ‘ARISE’ an archetypal example) and earning their stripes at schoolboy level, provincially, nationally, the internationally. I’m not sure whether Rassie was particularly injury prone, but he did have 32 operations to fix his rugby broken body. Rassie was part of Nick Mallett’s 17 victories in a row, and RWC 2019 Winning Coach, but what most impressed were the stories of his commitment to the growth and popularity of rugby in South Africa; the development of the EPD pathway to unearth and nurture talent; his strong emphasis on the soft skills, ‘alignment’ as he called it; his unusual methods of analysing the game; his spooky ability to ‘see things’ (like recruiting Morne Steyn into the 3rd test against the Lions having ‘seen’ the dying moments penalty); the development of Outfox software to replace whiteboards; his approach to race, transformation and merit; his modest view of himself and life; the agony of the Nick Berry video and his year’s suspension. As you read the book you almost feel that you’re chatting to Rassie over a beer, it is colloquially written, conversational, and full of entertaining digressions. He concludes ‘as we prepare for the 2023 World Cup I’m confident we have the majority of South Africans behind us. I hope that’s my lasting contribution, that and giving the opportunity for people to play. Anyone can play rugby, even if you are from Hoerskool Despatch.’