Green, Gold and Brown to unleash new-look Bok attack at Twickenham

NEW Springbok assistant coach Tony Brown. EPA

NEW Springbok assistant coach Tony Brown. EPA

Published Jun 18, 2024


Mike Greenaway

SPRINGBOK fans will have their first opportunity to evaluate the impact of attack guru Tony Brown when the Boks play Wales on Saturday at Twickenham.

Coach Rassie Erasmus is expected to field a backline bristling with attacking intent as flyhalf Manie Libbok will likely be marshalling a backline consisting of players such as Aphelele Fassi, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

Erasmus has brought in the wily Brown to grow the Boks’ attacking game over the next three years.

The Bok boss has said that his team have to evolve if they are to defend their World Cup crown in Australia in 2027, and the one clear area where they need to progress is in their attack.

The world knows about the Boks’ power up front, their tenacious defence, and their astute aerial game. The Boks are also proving to be dangerous on the counter-attack, from broken play, but they can certainly improve their ability to fashion attacks from first-phase possession and more static situations.

Enter Brown, the 49-year-old from Otago who was an innovative flyhalf for the Highlanders and the All Blacks in the late 1990s. He played 17 Tests for New Zealand and would have played far more had Andrew Mehrtens not been the preferred No 10.

“I’ve known Tony for a long time,” Erasmus said.

“I coached him at the Stormers in 2008 and I was impressed with how quickly he slotted in. He came to us after a season with the Sharks in Super Rugby, so he knows South African rugby and how we think.”

APHELELE Fassi. BackpagePix

As a coach, Brown has had tenures with Japan, the Sunwolves, the Highlanders and the Sanyo Wild Knights. Those are teams that have had to fight against the odds and Brown has found ways to make them effective in attack when often they are outgunned up front.

“Tony has experience that not a lot of guys have, from his time with Japan but also in New Zealand with the Highlanders,” Erasmus said.

“So he brings a lot of excitement and knowledge. He can open some of our backline players’ eyes to opportunities and how to make the most of them.”

The Bok coach is equally excited about the second foreigner he has brought in, Irishman Jerry Flannery.

Erasmus got to know Flannery when the latter was a hooker with Munster and Ireland and Erasmus was the coach of Munster from 2016-2017.

“Jerry spends hours and hours in front of the computer, very much in the mould of (former Bok coach) Jacques Nienaber,” Erasmus said.

“He can bring some exciting things to our defence system. The challenge is always how quickly we can bring all of those things together to work in a big Test match.”

The third newcomer to the Bok coaching staff is retired referee Jaco Peyper, who has the position of laws and discipline advisor.

Erasmus cleverly brought Peyper in for the last World Cup. The coach knew that his team were not well-liked by officials, but by the end of the tournament the Boks had one of the best disciplinary records.

“It has been invaluable having Peyps there for every training session, every scrum session, every line-out session,” the coach said.

“We are almost used to having a referee here who last year could’ve refereed the World Cup final. So, the new people in the management team are contributing in a way we want them to.”

Erasmus said the last two weeks of training in Pretoria have been “extremely productive”.

“With a good balance of youth and experience in the squad, we will take a quality squad to London and we will be able to blood some youngsters.

“We are determined to kick-start the season under this new era on a good note and set a strong tone for the Test series against Ireland.”

Erasmus names his matchday 23 to face Wales today.