CAPE TOWN - Now that Rassie Erasmus has finally been appointed as the new SA Director of Rugby, the big question is how much influence he will have on the Springboks’ style of play?
SA rugby ended months of speculation yesterday by confirming that Erasmus, who left a year ago to take up a position at Irish province Munster, will return as the Director of Rugby to oversee South African rugby’s eight national teams, and participation and management of 20 competitions - as well as the development of players, coaches and referees.
Erasmus’s employment with Munster will end on 31 December, and Jacques Nienaber, who joined Erasmus in Ireland, is also returning to SA Rugby as high performance coach.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, moved quickly yesterday to say that Allister Coetzee’s job as Springbok coach remains unchanged.
“Allister has done a great job to turn the Springboks around this season and I can categorically put to rest any idea that he is being replaced as Springbok coach,” said Roux.
“We will do everything in our power to support him for the Rugby Championship and everything that lies beyond that.”
But there will be legitimate questions asked about whether Erasmus will actually be the one calling the tune on how the Boks play.
It is hard to believe that as Director of Rugby he will not have a prominent voice when it comes to a game plan blueprint for the Boks.
Erasmus and Nienaber were instrumental in creating the defence-orientated culture at the Stormers, which took them to the final of Super Rugby, but it was not enough to capture the title.
Last year, the Springboks won only four of 12 Tests under Coetzee, and his reluctance to include a greater number of Lions players despite their unquestionable Super Rugby form was also a big talking point. And although last season Coetzee had mentioned a few times that he wanted the Boks to play with more creativity and ambition, there was no clear game plan on display when the Springboks took to the field.
But Coetzee put most of last season’s worries to bed with a 3-0 series whitewash over France, and those results included more enterprise on attack from the Springboks, while their massively-improved defence was laudable.
Erasmus though, has achieved great success at Munster, being named Pro12 Coach of the Year after leading them to the top of the log for the first time in six years. He also guided them to the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup, and under Erasmus, Munster won 26 of 32 matches in all competitions.
Yes, defence has always seemed to be a big thing with Erasmus, but who knows, maybe his thinking has evolved with the game, and maybe he will back the Springboks to continue on their new path?