Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus must embrace being the player and the dealer

At some point during the Rugby Championship, Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus will have to roll the dice. But it's not like 'The House' is going to gobble up his chips and throw him out on the street.

They say 'The House' always wins, but in Erasmus' case he is, well, the casino.

The Springboks have only 15 Tests left before next year's Rugby World Cup, with six of them coming in the next couple of the months in the Rugby Championship.The Boks start off their campaign against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

Erasmus needs to use these first six Tests to lay the foundation for the World Cup, as he needs to build depth and expose players to the rigours of rugby at the highest level. However, this being South Africa and Erasmus being in charge of the Boks, he also has to win to keep the rugby-mad nation happy.

Erasmus did that quite successfully in the June series against England, when he blooded many rookies and came away with a 2-1 series win. He also managed to tick his transformation boxes, which he has to be commended for.

But the June Tests were just the appetiser. The gauge of where this Bok team will be when they play the old enemy, the All Blacks, who have rattled up 50-pointers against the South Africans, home and away, over the last couple of years during Allister Coetzee's ill-fated reign.

But Erasmus is essentially his own boss, as he also has the title of director of rugby. And, with a handy six-year contract, cash-strapped SA Rugby won't be able to pay him out if disaster strikes. So, theoretically, there should be less pressure on Erasmus to experiment and get results at the same time. Not only is he the player, but he is also the dealer.

It never looked like Allister Coetzee had that kind of room to manoeuvre, which became evident after he was shown the door less than two years into the job.

Coetzee couldn't pick the team from overseas-based players, with the 30-cap rule handcuffing him from looking at talented young players overseas, while there were various other factors out of his control that contributed to his downfall. But Coetzee also made some terrible mistakes in terms of selection, while his teams -- for the most part -- looked clueless.

Erasmus says he has got pressure to perform despite the people's perception that he is a law unto himself -- the player and the dealer. And he is right, as South Africans aren't shy to sharpen the pitchforks when things go wrong. One moment they roar for you like the gallery at Bellerive when Tiger Woods made birdie on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship, and the next they run you out of town as if you'd robbed the bank.

"People sometimes get it wrong when they say there is no pressure on me because of the six-year contract. My view is, and I cherish this job, you can't divorce the director of rugby and the head coach job from each other at this stage because it's the same person," Erasmus said this week at the team's base in Durban.

"If I'm not successful as a head coach, then I'm not successful as director of rugby. I'm not stupid enough to think you can divorce the two. I'm worried about where we are going, building squad depth, trying to be a winning nation again and getting the transformation right.

"It's difficult balancing act, we know there are only 15 Test matches left and you want to try and win as many as possible, but you also want to get a squad ready for the World Cup to have a realistic chance of winning it.

"There will be some hiccups along the way. It's always difficult to change when you lose because it's crisis management. When you are winning, you can give guys chance to grow in a team environment."

However, Erasmus needs to embrace being both the player and the dealer to have a top World Cup. He needs to build capacity and certain positions, such as the centres, fullback and at openside flank. So why not use the power to experiment, because he can't fire himself.

For too long have Bok coaches crept into their shells because of the pressure to perform, to keep their jobs. But Erasmus finds himself in a situation where he can try things and scope out his options.

Winning the Rugby Championship, however attractive it is to SA rugby fans, is not as important as heading into a World Cup with all bases covered.