Murray says 'bad cop' Erasmus will be 'revving up' Springboks

Conor Murray says ‘bad cop’ Rassie Erasmus will be ‘revving up’ the Springboks ahead of the second Test and insists his former boss will have his side ’emotionally fired’ as Lions look to claim series win in South Africa

  • Conor Murray believes ‘bad cop’ Rassie Erasmus will have South Africa fired up 
  • South Africa are looking to overturn their defeat from the first Test on Saturday
  • Murray played under Erasmus and assistant Jacques Nienaber at Munster
  • He said Erasmus will have his players ’emotionally fired’ for the second Test

Conor Murray knows what it is like to play for Rassie Erasmus, so he knows that South Africa’s director of rugby will be busy behind his smokescreen — galvanising the Springboks to take the fight back to the Lions.

The build-up to the second Test has been dominated by the man who guided the host nation to World Cup glory in 2019. Erasmus has been centre stage, with myriad claims of injustice and a social media onslaught against the tourists.

But Murray, 32, is well aware that, away from these distraction tactics, he will be plotting to undermine the British and Irish quest.

Conor Murray (left) believes Rassie Erasmus (right) will be galvanising the South Africans 

Ireland’s scrum-half worked with Erasmus and his long-time sidekick Jacques Nienaber — now the Boks’ head coach — for a year when they took charge at Munster.

‘Like any coach after a defeat like that, he’s going to try to pick his squad up and emotionally fire them up again,’ he said. ‘He’ll have a definite plan of how they want to attack the game.

‘South African rugby pride themselves on physicality and we did quite well in that area, to withstand a lot of pressure. So will they be hurting from that? Will he be revving them up for that battle again? Probably.

‘Rassie is tough. He was a tough player and he expects toughness from his players. If physicality was missing or somebody shied away from it, they would be told. So we’re aware of what will come out of the tunnel on Saturday and we’ve got to meet it.

Murray (L) played under Erasmus and his long-time sidekick Jacques Nienaber at Munster

‘It’s going to be a close Test again. We have to be prepared for a few surprises because Rassie and Jacques like to think about the game deeply, so they’re going to be looking at everything we are doing.’

There has been intrigue about the dynamic between the Boks’ director of rugby — who has doubled-up as a water carrier — and their lower- profile head coach, who is nominally in charge of the team. Murray knows they have complementary characters.

Asked if it was a good-cop, bad-cop combination at Munster, he said: ‘Yeah. Rassie was tough and Jacques was the good cop. They worked in tandem — that’s why they’re a good team.

‘They balance well. If Rassie would have a go at anyone at Munster, Jacques would have a quiet word and tell them what Rassie actually meant and that it’s coming from a good place.

‘I don’t know how it works with South Africa but they’ve known each other for years. They’ll be putting their heads together and coming up with a plan.’

The Irishman said Nienaber acted as ‘good cop’ while Erasmus took on the ‘bad cop’ role

The social media alter-ego antics from Erasmus have been a bizarre sideshow, but Murray is not reading too much into it.

‘I don’t know what his game-plan is with Twitter,’ he said. ‘It’s funny. I don’t think it would have much of an impact in our camp or in the South African camp. I don’t think it takes pressure off the Boks — it’s just a funny, weird thing that’s going on as a sub-plot.’

By Murray’s own admission this has been a ‘rollercoaster’ of a tour. He was hurriedly named as stand-in captain when Alun Wyn Jones dislocated his shoulder against Japan the day before the Lions flew out to South Africa.

He was then caught up in the squad’s Covid outbreak as a close contact, missed game time and was left out of the starting XV last week after being seen as a shoo-in a few weeks ago.

Erasmus has been centre stage, with myriad claims of injustice and a social media onslaught

‘It’s been interesting,’ he said. ‘It’s had everything — captaining the side, being on the bench, starting. It’s been brilliant and I’ve enjoyed it.’

He is fired up for his showdown with Springbok dynamo Faf de Klerk and Murray is also adamant that he has been recalled for more than just his renowned ability to launch a pin-point aerial blitz. ‘Kicking has always been a strength, but that’s not the only reason I am playing scrum half,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot more to it.’

Murray will not lack motivation — and the same can be said of the Erasmus-driven Boks.

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