Significant changes to the Springbok, All Blacks and Wallabies coaching teams should make for a fascinating 2020 Rugby Championship tournament, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The 2019 Test season is a thing of the past. South Africa will end the year with the World Cup and Rugby Championship titles as well as World Rugby’s No 1-ranking.
Rassie Erasmus is not one to rest on his laurels, though. In the wake of the World Cup final, Erasmus pointed out that the new coaching team had 614 days to prepare for the British & Irish Lions series in 2021. He made mention of a challenging turnaround period between the Super Rugby tournament and the home Tests in July 2020.
Later that evening, the outgoing Bok coach told a group of South African journalists that he wanted to name a successor sooner rather than later. If Erasmus has his way, a new man will be in the hot seat before SA Rugby closes for business this December.
Rugby Australia has already appointed a new coach in Dave Rennie. New Zealand Rugby is expected to name a successor to Steve Hansen in the coming weeks. While there is a lot of debate about who should coach the Boks and All Blacks, the fact of the matter is that there will be three new men at the helm when the southern superpowers collide in next year’s Rugby Championship.
How will the new Bok coach adjust to the challenge in the lead-up and over the course of the tournament itself? Jacques Nienaber – the frontrunner for the position – has done wonders as a defence coach at the Stormers, Munster and the Boks, but has never been a head coach. It would be interesting to see how much he would change if he was appointed.
The latest media reports suggest that Deon Davids, who spent some time observing the Boks’ training sessions during the 2019 Rugby Championship, is also in the running. Like Nienaber, Davids would take some time to adjust to the new role.
Ian Foster served as Hansen’s assistant coach between 2012 and 2019. Up until the recent World Cup, Foster was the favourite to succeed Hansen. The latter was always going to step down at the end of the season. Now it appears as if Scott Robertson – who has guided the Crusaders to three titles in as many seasons – is a serious contender for one of the biggest jobs in world rugby.
How much will the All Blacks – under the guidance of a new coach – change in the Rugby Championship? 2019 marked the end of an era for Hansen’s remarkable side that achieved so much during an eight-year period. A new coach should bring fresh ideas to the table and the side that fronts Argentina, Australia and South Africa in 2020 could be somewhat different in terms of personnel and approach.
In 2018, Hansen declared that the South Africa-New Zealand rivalry was alive and well following two fiercely contested match-ups in the Rugby Championship. The Boks beat the All Blacks in Wellington and then went down narrowly to Hansen’s side in the subsequent clash in Pretoria.
Those results served to boost a Rugby Championship tournament that had grown stale and predictable. In 2019, the two teams battled to a draw in the fixture played in Wellington. The Boks then surprised by going on to win the title.
Could we see the emergence of another genuine title contender in 2020? The Wallabies showed few signs of progress under coach Michael Cheika between 2016 and 2019. Rennie – who steered the Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles – could be the man to revive that sleeping giant. While that may sound like bad news for the Boks, All Blacks and Pumas, it’s good news for the Rugby Championship tournament as a whole.
The 2018 and 2019 editions of the competition saw two teams contesting fiercely for the title. Next year, as many as three teams could be in the running as three new coaches look to make a statement at the start of a new era for southern hemisphere rugby. While Argentina have some way to go, they could also force a big upset or two if they manage their top players well over the course of the preceding Super Rugby tournament.
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