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Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach. Image via SARugby

Home » ‘Dr’ or ‘Mr’ Erasmus? Rassie gets honorary PhD

‘Dr’ or ‘Mr’ Erasmus? Rassie gets honorary PhD

Should Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus be referred to as “Dr” after he was conferred an honorary doctorate by the North West University?

03-05-24 12:46
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Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach. Image via SARugby

Beloved Springbok coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus was officially conferred an honorary doctorate by the North West University on Thursday, 2 May.

Erasmus joins Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis who also received an honorary doctorate from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) recently.


The NWU Council made the decision to honour the back-to-back Rugby World Cup winning coach for his contribution to the sport in November 2023.

The university said it bestowed the honorary doctorate on Erasmus in recognition of his innovative and exceptional management of the Springboks during their victorious 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cup campaigns. Additionally, his significant standing in the international rugby coaching arena, his strong drive and focus on diversity and inclusion, and his commitment to social responsibility.

“In addition to his visionary leadership, he has also shown an unwavering commitment to the Sport Transformation Charter – which is included in the Strategic Plan of the Department of Sport and Recreation – that has resulted in a systematic change in the development of talent and skills across the national rugby spectrum,” the university said.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi who was also present congratulated the 51-year-old saying he deserves the honour.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without him, my family wouldn’t be where they are without him and my community wouldn’t be where they are without him. As a coach he made us play for South Africa, and not for ourselves. We are such a diverse country, but he made every single person in our group feel safe and heard. We are all indebted to him,” Kolisis said.

Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa also congratulated Erasmus on his achievement.

“I congratulate Dr Rassie Erasmus on receiving an honorary doctorate in Coaching Science from the North West University. Coach Rassie has stood out for his exceptional management of the Springboks who have won back to back Rugby World Cups,” Kodwa wrote on X.

Rassie Erasmus honorary doctorate
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus. Image: North West University.


In the wake of the increasing number of public figures receiving honorary doctorates, the SA Association of PhDs says recipients should not demand to be called “Dr”.  

In a recent interview with Newzroom Afrika, the association’s Dr Avela Majavu said there are only two doctors in South Africa: a medical doctor and a doctor who obtained their PhD academically. 

Majavu said that in an academic doctorate, you delve into work-related research and have to defend your qualification. This rigorous process entails years of dedicated study and completing a substantial doctor thesis or dissertation. In contrast, in an honorary doctorate, people are recognised by universities or societies for their impact. 

“This has caused a lot of confusion because everyone wants to be a doctor without putting in all the hard work. An honourable doctorate only acknowledges the work that an individual does in society and is not a degree,” Majavu emphasised.