JOHANNESBURG – Former Cheetahs and Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus could make a dramatic comeback to South African rugby even before the Springboks’ first Test against France in June.
The Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport stated at the weekend that current Munster director of rugby Erasmus was being lined up to return to his old job as the high-performance manager at SA Rugby.
But this time around, he would be given more powers, with Springbok coach Allister Coetzee having to report to Erasmus, who will also be responsible for all other national teams.
It is believed that it is just a “mere formality” that Erasmus will leave Ireland at the end of the season to return to South Africa.
He is understood to have made a number of demands before accepting his old job back, such as being able to contract national players, appointing the coaches for the Junior Boks, and ensuring that the SA Rugby Mobi-Unit continues to function.
Erasmus’ departure north saw his good friend and defence expert Jacques Nienaber join him at Munster, while scrum consultant Pieter de Villiers moved to the Stormers.
The 44-year-old former Springbok flank left the local rugby fraternity in a huff last June following a supposed fall-out with former SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins, as well as the fact that Coetzee was chosen as Heyneke Meyer’s successor.
But there may be an opportunity for Erasmus to claim the top job as Coetzee survived a critical review after a disastrous 2016 season in which South Africa lost eight out of 12 Test matches.
Coetzee is believed to have been given an ultimatum to win the June three-Test series against France, or else he would be fired.
The Irish Independent reported that Erasmus confirmed at a press conference on Monday afternoon that he has been in contact with SA Rugby about a possible return home, as well as some members of the Bok management, despite holding a Munster contract for the next three years.
“I worked and lived in South Africa as a coach for 16 years and I speak to them weekly, on a formal and informal basis. But at this stage, I have a full contract (with Munster) which is three years, and it’s just speculation,” Erasmus said.
“I’m big friends with the current coaches and management team. There have been formal and informal chats the past few months. Some have been requests, some have been pure chats.
“It’s just speculation at this stage. I’ve got a contract with the IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union), and nothing’s changing.”
Erasmus is preparing Munster for Saturday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse.