Conor Murray says ‘bad cop’ Rassie Erasmus will ‘step up’ the Springboks ahead of second Test and insists his former boss will ’emotionally fire’ his side as Lions look to claim series win in South Africa
- Conor Murray believes ‘bad cop’ Rassie Erasmus will detonate South Africa
- South Africa wants to undo their defeat of Saturday’s first Test
- Murray played under Erasmus and assistant Jacques Nienaber at Munster
- He said Erasmus will have his players ’emotionally fired’ before the second Test
Conor Murray knows what it’s like to play for Rassie Erasmus, so he knows that the South African rugby director will be working behind his smokescreen to encourage the Springboks to bring the fight back to the Lions.
The build-up to the second Test was dominated by the man who led the host nation to World Cup glory in 2019. Erasmus took center stage, with numerous claims of injustice and a social media attack against the tourists.
But Murray, 32, is well aware that, beyond these diversionary tactics, he will be making plans to undermine the British and Irish search.
Conor Murray (left) believes Rassie Erasmus (right) will excite South Africans
Ireland’s scrum half teamed up with Erasmus and his longtime sidekick Jacques Nienaber – now the head coach of the Boks – for a year when they took charge at Munster.
“Like any coach after such a defeat, he will try to get his team back on track and get them going emotionally,” he said. “He will have a clear plan on how they want to attack the game.
“South African rugby prides itself on physicality and we have done quite well in that area to withstand a lot of pressure. So will they be bothered by that? Will he wind them up again for that battle? Likely.
“Rassie is tough. He was a tough player and he expects toughness from his players. If physicality was missing or anyone recoiled from it, they would be told. So we know what’s coming out of the tunnel on Saturday and we need to see it.
Murray (L) played under Erasmus and his old sidekick Jacques Nienaber at Munster
“It will be another exciting test. We have to be prepared for some surprises, because Rassie and Jacques like to think deeply about the game, so they’re going to look at everything we do.”
Intrigue has arisen over the dynamics between the Boks rugby director – who has also served as a water carrier – and their lesser-known head coach, who is nominally in charge of the team. Murray knows they have complementary characters.
When asked if it was a good cop, a bad cop in Munster, he replied, “Yes. Rassie was tough and Jacques was the good cop. They worked together – that’s why they make a good team.
‘They balance well. If Rassie tried someone in Munster, Jacques would have a quiet word and tell them what Rassie actually meant and that it’s from a good place.
‘I don’t know how it works with South Africa, but they’ve known each other for years. They put their heads together and come up with a plan.’
The Irishman said Nienaber acted as ‘good cop’ while Erasmus took on the role of ‘bad cop’
Erasmus’ alter ego antics on social media were a bizarre sideshow, but Murray doesn’t read too much into them.
“I don’t know what his game plan is with Twitter,” he said. ‘It is funny. I don’t think it would have much impact in our camp or the South African camp. I don’t think it puts any pressure on the Boks – it’s just a funny, weird thing going on like a subplot.”
By Murray’s own admission this was a rollercoaster of a tour. He was hastily named stand-in captain when Alun Wyn Jones dislocated his shoulder against Japan the day before the Lions flew to South Africa.
He was then caught up in the squad’s Covid outbreak as a close contact, missed playing time and was left out of the starting XV last week after being seen as a shoo-in a few weeks ago.
Erasmus took center stage, with numerous claims of injustice and an attack on social media
“It was interesting,” he said. “It’s had it all: captain of the team, sitting on the bench, starting. It was brilliant and I enjoyed it.’
He’s excited for his showdown with Springbok dynamo Faf de Klerk, and Murray is also adamant that he’s been recalled for more than just his famous ability to launch a pin-point aerial blitz. “Kicking has always been a strength, but that’s not the only reason I play 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.