It is important for Rassie Erasmus to stay on as coach no what the result is against England in the Rugby World Cup final. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Win or lose the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama on Saturday, Rassie Erasmus has to stay in charge of the Springboks. And I don’t mean as director of rugby - the position he was appointed in when he returned to South Africa after his spell with Munster in Ireland - but as the head coach and the role he has fulfilled in the last 18 months with the Boks.

When former coach Allister Coetzee was sacked after the disastrous 2016 and 2017 seasons not too many people would have thought the Boks would be a contender for the Webb Ellis Cup, but here we are, days away from the team playing in the final. It is a remarkable turn-around in fortunes and it has plenty to do with Erasmus. And it is the reason why he simply has to remain a hands-on coach.

It is one thing being a director of rugby and organising matters from an office, and occasionally venturing down to the training field and leading the odd video and planning session, and quite another being involved on a day-to-day basis and getting stuck in, all the time.

The rugby guru that is Erasmus can surely fulfil both roles, and must. What has happened to Bok rugby over the last year or so, and the turn-round that has been achieved, cannot be wasted because of poor planning, like it was at the end of 2007.

Jake White should have stayed on as Boks boss for another four years after he guided the team to World Cup glory in 2007, but a clash of personalities and who knows what else resulted in the Boks starting afresh and new in 2008. The team did well enough under Peter de Villiers, but they could have been so much stronger, considering the group of players who were then in their prime.

SA Rugby must not, cannot, make the same mistakes this time.

With the likes of New Zealand and Australia and Wales, and Ireland and England all definitely, or possibly, going to be led by new men from next year, this is a golden opportunity for the Boks to get back on top and stay on top. Under Erasmus the team has steadily showed progress and moved up the rankings and become a world force again. They are respected and feared and it has to stay that way over the next four seasons up to the next World Cup.

The Boks were at an all-time low of seven in the World Rankings in 2017 - following the shock defeats, among others, to Italy and Argentina and the 57-0 hiding by the All Blacks in Albany. Two years later the Boks are up to second in the rankings, and one win away from glory.

A handful of the current World Cup squad will retire after this tournament, but the vast majority of the players are young enough to still be around in four years time, and it is around the current squad that the team for the tour of the British and Irish Lions in two years’ time and the next World Cup must be built. And, the current coaching team, led by a hands-on Erasmus, must continue, too.

The Boks have played very basic, but highly effective, rugby to make the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, but they are far from where they could be as a team. I don’t believe they’ve fired at even 80 percent of their potential, and that is what is so exciting and encouraging about the future of this team. To maximise their potential and reach new heights, they’re going to need to maintain continuity and the high levels of professionalism demanded by Erasmus, so he has to stay.

@jacq_west 


IOL Sport

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