Erasmus to take over as coach for world champion SpringboksSun, 05 Nov 2023 19:30:14 GMT

Rassie Erasmus will return as coach of the world champion Springboks, a high-ranking South African Rugby Union (SARU) official told AFP on Sunday.The South African director of rugby succeeds head coach Jacques Nienaber, who announced several months ago that he would quit after the World Cup and join Irish side Leinster.A high-ranking official within SA Rugby who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP: “I can confirm that Rassie Erasmus will combine his duties as director of rugby with that of Springbok coach.”The confirmation that Erasmus would continue to be involved with the Springboks came despite speculation that he might follow World Cup-winning coach Nienaber and accept a lucrative job in Ireland.Erasmus and Nienaber have formed a tight-knit team since working together with South African franchise the Cheetahs.They also joined forces with Munster in Ireland before Erasmus was appointed South Africa’s director of rugby and coach in 2018.He brought Nienaber on board and they guided the Springboks to victory in the 2019 World Cup in Japan.Nienaber took over as head coach in 2020 when Erasmus stepped aside but his influence remained obvious as the Springboks clinched a second successive world crown.Erasmus said in an interview with Afrikaans language newspaper Rapport on Sunday that the loss of Nienaber left a huge hole in the Springbok coaching team.But he added that no one was irreplaceable, citing the loss of star hooker Malcolm Marx early in the 2023 campaign, which was followed by an injury to Bongi Mbonambi early in the final against New Zealand, leaving the team without a specialist in the position.With the majority of the 2023 winners having been part of the 2019 triumph, Erasmus said succession planning was essential in several positions.He singled out lock Eben Etzebeth. “He is so athletic but I don’t know whether he has another World Cup in him.”Erasmus said hooker was another position in which South Africa’s resources could be thin.Marx will be 33 in 2027, while Mbonambi will be 36 and Deon Fourie, who replaced Mbonambi early in this year’s final, is already 37.But Erasmus said he was confident about the key fly-half position.Handre Pollard will be 33 but Manie Libbok is only 26, while there are several talented young fly-halves playing in domestic rugby.”We will work nice and hard on his place-kicking,” Erasmus said of Libbok, who missed crucial kicks during South Africa’s group phase loss against Ireland.Erasmus paid tribute to attack coach Felix Jones. The Irishman is set to join England’s coaching staff.”England have gained a jewel in Felix,” said Erasmus. “He works himself to death, morning, afternoon and evening. Jacques is the same.”The next big challenge for the Springboks is two matches against Ireland in July next year.Ireland were the only team to beat South Africa at this year’s World Cup.