Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that Saturday’s World Cup final against England in Yokohama will be his last as Springbok head coach.
Erasmus has served in the dual role of Bok coach and SA Rugby director of rugby since the beginning of 2018. There has been speculation over whether or not he would continue beyond the World Cup and potentially coach the team during the British & Irish Lions tour in 2021.
However, Erasmus confirmed on Thursday that he will be stepping down as head coach at the end of this year and that the 2019 World Cup final will be his last game coaching the team. Defence coach Jacques Nienaber has been heavily touted to be Erasmus’ successor.
‘It’s probably my last Test match. It is my last Test match of being head coach,’ Erasmus said. ‘It’s an emotional one. I didn’t think 25 Tests would go that quickly.
‘When I came back from Munster, I thought it would be more about focusing on my family as well as thinking more strategically in terms of helping the schoolboys, helping the sevens, and helping the Bok coach. When you become the Bok coach you become more hands-on, your adrenaline starts pumping and you really become part of it. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s sad that there are only three days and then it’s all over.
‘I will still be heavily involved whatever way we go in terms of the next Bok coach. I must say, just being the coach gave me such hope again for South African rugby. Two years ago, everybody was talking about this hope thing, but I was like, let’s just focus on the rugby. I’ve changed my mind. If we play with passion and people see it, it can help them forget about their problems. We have to use this platform. No matter what happens on Saturday, we have to use what we’ve built to take us forward in the next six or seven years.’
Saturday’s final presents the Boks with a chance to win their first World Cup in 12 years, while they can also write their own piece of history by becoming the first team to win a Rugby Championship and World Cup in the same year, while also becoming the first team to win the tournament after losing their opening match.
While a defeat by England would be disappointing, Erasmus admitted they would only consider it a failure if they did not give their all during the match.
‘The only failure would be not pitching up and giving it absolutely everything. When we started our journey 18 months ago, we said that the main thing was how we played rugby, not all of the other spinoffs.
We said that when we win, people will start supporting us again, talking about us again, helping us with team selections and so on. We want that criticism. That’s when you know South Africans care again. We knew it would be a process and that we would have to take some risks along the road to get where we wanted to go. We knew that the expectations would grow.
‘The only failure is not giving everything. When you walk off the field and you realise that you didn’t give everything and you realise that you were beaten by a lesser team … that’s not good enough. We can live with not beating England on Saturday as long as we know that we gave everything. That’s life.’
Erasmus added that while making the World Cup final is a massive achievement in the context of the last four years, there is still plenty to work on to ensure the Springboks keep up their high standards.
‘When we hit rock bottom we realised that we had to fix the system,’ Erasmus said. ‘We’ve worked hard and are now in a position to be No 1 again. We don’t by any stretch believe that we’re there yet. We’re in the World Cup final and that’s great. We’re going to give it our all and really try to win it this Saturday. But I think that the big challenge after that is to be consistent. It’s a nice springboard to take things forward. With all the players, coaches, facilities and structures that we have, we should be in the top three consistently from hereon in.’
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets