The retention of Rassie Erasmus as director of rugby and the World Cup-winning coaching staff will boost the Boks, writes former Springbok skipper JEAN DE VILLIERS.
The Springboks and SA Rugby are in a great space. Rassie Erasmus has put the necessary structures in place to ensure the team builds and improves over the next four years. It’s a recipe for consistency.
How many times have we seen head coaches and entire coaching teams moving on after a World Cup campaign? Senior players either retired or opted to finish their careers overseas. As a result, a lot of IP was lost to South African rugby and the team were forced to start from scratch the following season.
Now we find ourselves in a rare position to build on a World Cup victory. Rassie will remain involved as director of rugby. Hopefully the majority of the World Cup-winning coaching team will remain intact. There will be a new coach in charge, but the systems in place should make the transition much easier. A Test series against Scotland and Georgia in July 2020, with all respect to them, should provide the entire Bok group with the ideal opportunity to settle before a challenging Rugby Championship campaign.
The next four-year cycle brings new challenges and I’m sure Rassie and the coaches are already planning for the big series and tournaments to come. I was involved in 2009 when the Boks last faced the British & Irish Lions. I can vouch for the fact it is a truly special occasion. Every player wants to be a part of a World Cup tournament and a Lions series. Those in this Bok group will have the same attitude.
Some have suggested Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn may be nearing the end of their Test careers. I disagree. I reckon Duane and Frans will be targeting that Lions series and they will no doubt make an impact in what should be an era to remember. Frans featured in the last series back in 2009. To play in two Lions series – 12 years apart – would be a special achievement.
The Boks are in a better position now than was the case 12 years ago. While the side built up a lot of momentum in the four-year cycle under Jake White, there was a period of transition and adjustment when Peter de Villiers took over after the 2007 World Cup.
That was to be expected, of course, with a new coaching team introducing fresh ideas and strategies. It was always going to take some time for the players to adapt. We were inconsistent in the 2008 season, picking up big wins, yet slumping to a few disappointing losses. We eventually got it right on the end-of-year tour to the United Kingdom, and then fired properly in the 2009 season to beat the Lions and win the Tri-Nations.
The South African public will expect the Boks to succeed in 2020, despite the fact every opponent will relish the chance to play and beat them. That’s the kind of pressure that comes with being world champions, though. I doubt anyone will be unaware of the challenge.
We shouldn’t underestimate how the retention of coaching personnel and players will influence South Africa’s preparation leading up to the July Tests. For the first time, the Boks look set to start a post-World Cup season on the front foot.
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