Rassie Erasmus, post the 2023 Rugby World Cup, must head to England with the blessing of all Springbok supporters. He has done his job in South Africa – and done it well, writes Mark Keohane.
Rassie Erasmus will lead South African rugby until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and then succeed Eddie Jones as England coach.
Erasmus, who has transformed the Springboks in every sense of the word since his arrival back in South Africa at the end of 2017, will see out his six years at the helm of SA Rugby and the Springboks.
In his tenure, the Boks have won the 2019 World Cup, won the 2019 Rugby Championship, beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand and on neutral ground in Australia and beaten the British & Irish Lions 2-1 in a three-Test series.
Erasmus, who spent two seasons as Munster’s Director of Rugby before returning to South Africa, promised to restore the glory of the Springboks and he also promised to transform the Boks to a playing squad that spoke to the demographics of the country.
Erasmus, as I have written many times, did more to transform the Springboks than every one of his predecessors combined.
He appointed Siya Kolisi as the first black captain of the Springboks and he created playing opportunities for black players, who all responded with stand out performances. The Springboks, since Erasmus arrived, have showcased more black Test players than at anytime in South Africa’s history.
Erasmus also initiated a succession plan in appointing former defence coach Jacques Nienaber to succeed him post the 2019 World Cup. Erasmus still works closely with the Boks as the National Director of Rugby.
The prospect of a new challenge and also the potency of the English currency (when compared to the South African rand) would prove enticing to anyone and no-one should begrudge Erasmus the next step in his rugby journey.
Naturally, it would be sad to lose such intellectual capital but after six years Erasmus may feel there is nothing more to achieve with the Springboks and that SA Rugby is also in need of a change.
Erasmus would not be selling out on South African rugby, just like Warren Gatland did not sell out on Wales and the British & Irish Lions in returning to New Zealand. Equally, Eddie Jones did not sell out on Australia in going to Japan and then onto England from Japan.
England’s Andy Farrell did not sell out when taking up the Irish head coaching job and John Plumtree did not sell out when leaving Ireland for New Zealand. Ditto, Joe Schmidt, who has returned to New Zealand after a decade coaching Ireland. Schmidt will link up with the All Blacks after the three-Test series between Ireland and New Zealand later this year. Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is also not a sell out for coaching the Pumas against Australia.
Erasmus will want to leave on the highest of highs, in supporting Nienaber to a second successive Springboks World Cup title and a fourth for the country. Such a success would make the Springboks the most successful team in the history of World Cups, which would be remarkable given the country missed the 1987 and 1991 World Cup tournaments because of international sporting isolation.
There has been a lot of debate on social media since Erasmus made it clear in an interview with the Daily Mail that he would love the challenge of coaching England.
Erasmus, though, in the interview, was also very clear that he wanted the blessing of South Africans to do so.
Well, he has my blessing and I’d like to think he would have every South African rugby supporter’s blessing based on what he has given the Springboks and South African rugby in the past five years.
What will be interesting is whether Nienaber goes with Erasmus in 2024 or continues as Springboks coach.
This could depend on the success of the Boks at the 2023 World Cup, but what will encourage SA Rugby’s bosses is how successful Jake White has been with the Bulls.
White, who won the 2007 World Cup as Springboks coach, spent a decade coaching overseas in Australia, France and Japan.
He did a year at the Sharks during that decade, but was paramount to the revival at the Bulls, in which they have won back-to-back Currie Cup titles, Super Rugby Unlocked and the South African version of the Rainbow Cup.
His Bulls, after a slow start to the United Rugby Championships, are also in the mix for a top eight play-off finish.
White would be an obvious choice to coach the Boks in the post Erasmus era and as with all things there will be life for the Springboks after Rassie.
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