New Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will have to live up to the hype. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

The South African Rugby Union this past week confirmed that former captain Rassie Erasmus would be the new Springbok head coach. Fair enough.

In a wishing well of desperately parched pickings, the former loose forward is as good as it can probably get for the national team now.

Coaching appointments in the world of rugby revolve around World Cup cycles, and the short-lived tenure of Thabo Mbe, er, Allister Coetzee, had left a gap in the office.

Of course, Coetzee will point to a pre-ordered dagger for his back, but that is yet another conspiracy theory for another day.

The biggest problem with Erasmus is that his is an appointment that adds yet more to an already overflowing cup. He is now having his cake, eating it, and then baking himself a fresh one.

So familiar with the powers that be, in fact, Erasmus didn’t even need to go for a job interview.

As politicians would say, it didn’t even go to tender  which is not following the normal practices of such job titles.

The rather important job of national rugby coach was simply added to the Erasmus portfolio of responsibilities, somewhere under the Director of Rugby mantle, and above whatever other dealings he already has an interest in already around the Saru offices.

There is a lot going on there, which makes one wonder just how Erasmus can apply himself to each of these tasks evenly.

Yes, he combined the role of coach and Director of Rugby at Munster. And yes, he even managed to win the coach of the year award at Munster. There is no award for Director of Rugby of the Year, of course, so we will never know where he ranked there. But, if Saru are to be believed, Erasmus would have been in a one-horse race, because the level of comfortability provided by Erasmus’ dual roles is unprecedented.

He is not even looking at the current World Cup with a twitchy eye, because his terms of employment run right through to 2023. If he wants them to keep going for that long. He may get bored of all his roles, and find a patch of European grass that is more enticing.

We don’t know, just as we don’t know who Rassie the coach answers to when Rassie the Director of Rugby wonders what is going on with the team that Rassie the coach coaches. The accountability, or lack thereof, may well come back to haunt South African rugby, because Rassie Erasmus may not cut the mustard as a coach.

The evidence from his predecessors suggests that it has almost become a poisoned chalice, a national noose around the neck that strangles the enthusiasm of even the strongest men.

There is an understanding that another coach may come into the picture at some point. Or maybe not, if the messiah somehow tugs at the heart strings of players who have been lavished with euros and dollars, and gets them to pull on the Bok jumper again - 30 Test caps or not.

Heck, maybe he will scrap the rule altogether, and make up new ones as he goes along.

Erasmus comes in with a fresh canvas, and with the undiluted support of the suits.

It is an astonishing level of privilege, one not seen at any other rugby institution in the world.

For the sake of their own credibility, Saru will be hoping to high heaven this confusing operation somehow works. Because, from the outside, there are all sorts of warning lights flashing.

And, for once, those neon lights are not even being controlled by the resourceful Rassie Erasmus.

Sunday Tribune

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