Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus is going down a familiar path

The biggest concern when Rassie Erasmus was appointed Springboks coach was whether he would be able to handle the pressure that goes hand in hand with the toughest job in South African sport. And, at the moment, it seems like he is about to crack.

Erasmus was a wonderfully skillful loose forward, whose ability to read the game and link with his backs made him one of the best players in the world during a golden period for the Springboks in the late 90s.

He made the successful transition into coaching, with his out-of-the-box thinking earning him a lot of praise and admirers.

Erasmus famously used colour cards on the roof of the Free State Stadium as coach of the Cheetahs, signalling his charges to use different players from his vantage point. He also once told his Stormers players "not to play any rugby" against the Waratahs at a drenched Newlands to try to minimise their mistakes.

Erasmus didn't win any trophies during his time at Munster, as they lost in the final of the PRO12 in 2017 and bowed out in the semi-finals of the European Championship Cup in the same year. However, he won the European Coach of the Year award and guided the Irish team through a difficult period following the death of head coach and club legend Anthony Foley.

But Erasmus actually seems to like being in the background more than being inundated with questions at media conferences and having to do television interviews.

During his time at the Stormers, he implemented a strict media policy, as he had to deal with a lot more media in Cape Town than he had to in his native Bloemfontein. Erasmus eventually decided to move into a director of coaching role and promoted his assistant Allister Coetzee as the head coach.

Thereafter Erasmus took up a job as SA Rugby's high performance manager, but left for Munster in 2016 shortly after Coetzee was given the Boks job. Erasmus then left Munster after he was appointed as South Africa's director of rugby at the end of 2017, before also taking up the role of Springboks coach after Coetzee was fired early in 2018.

Was he ready for the job? His dream job? It seemed so, as Erasmus made all the right noises and promoted honesty and transparency from the get-go. He talked about building towards the World Cup in Japan, even though winning and results are the only things the South African rugby public is interested in.

The Springboks head coach job, though, is one of the most stressful occupations in all of rugby, and over the past decade we have seen several talented coaches struggle to breathe when caught in the quicksand of defeats and a lack of transformation of the national team.

Peter de Villiers, although successful, made several bizarre comments that tarnished his legacy as Boks coach. Heyneke Meyer looked as if he were having a stroke in the coach's box every time his team played, and he looked for divine intervention during their match against Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The normally media-savvy Allister Coetzee, in his last few months as Boks coach, lost his cool a few times at media conferences when answering rather simple questions.

Only seven games into his tenure, it seems as if Erasmus is going down the same path as his predecessors -- and a lot quicker than anybody would have anticipated.

After the defeat by Argentina in Mendoza, Erasmus, who said a week earlier that he wanted to try new players on the tour of Australasia and "build capacity in certain positions", mentioned during an interview that they can't do experiments anymore and from now on it's win at all costs.

Erasmus replaced hooker Bongi Mbonambi in the 35th minute of their defeat by the Wallabies in Brisbane shortly after a wayward lineout feed led to a try for the home side. Erasmus said afterwards that he had hooked the Stormers player because he had "emptied the tank" and was tired.

But to most people watching on television in South Africa, it looked like a knee-jerk reaction -- a bit of panic. It resembled petulance of the highest order, which, in the South African context, could easily be construed as something much worse. But it was just an emotional reaction to what was happening on the field.

On Monday, Erasmus hinted that defeat by the All Blacks could signal the end of his tenure. "If we do really bad here, then I will probably not be in the seat for the next couple of matches and somebody else will probably be there," he said.

It was another bizarre reaction. And, on the evidence of the Boks' performances over the past few weeks, he may as well fire himself before the match kicks off in Wellington. The Springboks coaching job is tough, there is no doubt about it. You need a thick skin, otherwise it's going to gobble you up and spit you out. You must try to take emotion out of the job.

Taking the emotion of the job, or at least trying to, is something that Springboks coaches have not been able to do. Emotion clouds judgment and it tends to filter down to the players on the field.

It could be the main reason why the Springboks just haven't been able to evolve along with teams such as the All Blacks and England, despite having some of the best junior player resources in the world. It's the main reason why players can't execute properly on the field at all levels of the game, because they are afraid of making mistakes.

Erasmus is supposed to have it a lot easier than his predecessors, because he has time to build a squad and get South African rugby back on track. While the fans demand results, everybody knows that this is not going to happen overnight. He has a six-year contract, and no matter what he says, he is the boss.

Yes, the Boks have been terrible over the past few weeks and should probably have beaten Argentina and the rather feeble Wallabies side they came up against the Brisbane. But there is a bigger picture and that is to get the Springboks back on their feet and out of the ICU. This is going to take time.

But now we are seeing the same old Springboks movie, this time a lot sooner and without any ad breaks. Erasmus looks like he is cracking under the pressure seven games into his tenure.

What the Boks need, and indeed rugby in South Africa needs, is calm heads and proper leadership. Unfortunately, though, everybody is running around like they are on fire. Nobody seems to be working in the same direction.

If Erasmus isn't up for the job or the fight, then it doesn't matter what the Springboks get up to against the All Blacks this weekend. Get someone else instead.