SA Rugby magazine looks back at Rassie Erasmus’ coaching career to date, starting with the Cheetahs and ending with his Coach of the Year award.
After retiring from rugby at 31 years old, Erasmus took over as head coach of his former side. His impact in Bloemfontein was immediately felt, as he guided the Cheetahs to the Currie Cup final in 2004 and Currie Cup title in 2005, their first since 1976. It was during this time that Erasmus showed his willingness to think outside the box, becoming notorious for using disco lights to indicate which attacking move his side should use at any given point in a match. In 2006, the Cheetahs experienced their first Super Rugby season when the competition expanded to 14 teams and finished 10th with five wins out of 13. They then retained the Currie Cup after drawing with the Blue Bulls after extra time. Erasmus’ final season with the Cheetahs came in 2007 when he guided the Cheetahs to 11th place in the Super 14.
2007: Springbok technical coach
Erasmus had his first taste of Test-rugby coaching when he linked up with the Springboks during the buildup to their 2007 World Cup campaign as a technical advisor. This would be short-lived, though, as he was appointed as Western Province director of rugby.
2007-11: Western Province director of rugby and Stormers head coach
In the role that moved Erasmus into the spotlight as a top-level coach he transformed the Stormers from mid-table dwellers to playoff challengers. When he joined the Stormers ahead of the 2007 Currie Cup, the team had finished 10th in Super Rugby. In his first season in charge the Stormers climbed to fifth and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. After another average season in 2009, the Stormers overhauled their team and structure, with Erasmus moving into a director-of-rugby role, while Allister Coetzee was appointed as head coach. The change had immediate effect as the team finished as losing finalists in 2010 and semi-finalists in 2011.
2011-12: SA Rugby technical specialist and high-performance manager
Erasmus again linked up with the Boks as part of Peter de Villiers’ coaching group for the 2011 World Cup. Following the tournament, Erasmus was meant to return to Western Province but left the union to take up a role as SA Rugby’s high-performance manager in 2012. Part of his responsibilities was to create a blueprint to improve rugby from junior to senior level. He also worked alongside then Bok coach Heyneke Meyer regarding the national team’s tactics and strategy.
July 2016-December 2017: Munster director of rugby and head coach
Erasmus was initially approached and appointed to fill the role of director of rugby at the Irish club, starting on 1 July 2016. However, following the untimely death of Munster head Anthony Foley three months later, Erasmus was named as interim head coach until the end of the European season. Despite the loss of Foley, Erasmus picked up the shattered Munster side and led them to the PRO14 final where they lost 42-22 to the Scarlets and to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, where they lost to eventual champions Saracens, 26-10. His stirring effort in the face of adversity was rewarded when Erasmus won the PRO12 Coach of the Season award for the 2016-17 season. A month later, it was confirmed that Erasmus would vacate his position in order to return to South Africa. However, Erasmus agreed to stay on at the club until December 2017 in order to help his successor, Johann van Graan, settle in and make a smooth transition from assistant coach to head coach.
January 2018-present: SA Rugby director of rugby
Erasmus rejoined SA Rugby as its first-ever director of rugby because the position at organisation had never been filled before. His core duties are to oversee South African rugby’s eight national teams, including the women’s teams, participation and management of 20 competitions as well as the development of players, coaches and referees.
March 2018-November 2019: Springbok head coach
Following the unceremonious sacking of his predecessor, Allister Coetzee, Rassie Erasmus took over as Springbok head coach. The move initially drew cynicism, especially because he took on the enormous task without relinquishing his director-of-rugby responsibilities. Under his tutelage the Springboks won 17 out of 26 Tests, lost just eight and drew one, giving Erasmus a 65.3% success rate. Some of the Boks’ highlights under Erasmus include a 36-34 win over the All Blacks in Wellington in 2018, a 16-16 draw with the same opposition at the same venue a year later, clinching the Rugby Championship title for the first time since 2009 and claiming the World Cup for the first time since 2007. It was also the first time a team had gone on to win both the Rugby Championship and World Cup in the same calendar year. He was named World Rugby Coach of the Year, ahead of fellow nominees Steve Hansen (All Blacks) Jamie Joseph (Japan), Eddie Jones (England) and Warren Gatland (Wales). Erasmus has since confirmed he will step down as Springbok coach to focus solely on his role as SA Rugby director of rugby.
2018-19: Additional jobs
In September 2018, after the Bulls lost the services of services of head coach John Mitchell, Erasmus offered to provisionally step in and coach the Pretoria-based side throughout the 2019 Super Rugby season. He later moved away from that plan and instead helped the union throughout the application and appointment processes of a new coach.
Later that same month, it was confirmed that Erasmus would coach the Barbarians in their end-of-year game against Argentina at Twickenham on 1 December. Erasmus’ composite team – which featured his 13 Springboks – beat Argentina 38-35 thanks to a late drop goal from Elton Jantjies.
In April 2019, Erasmus was approached by the Free State Rugby Union in his capacity as SA Rugby director of rugby to assist in the process of identifying the best possible candidates to replace former coach Franco Smith. Erasmus agreed and helped the union in securing the services of Hawies Fourie as the Cheetahs’ head coach in the PRO14.
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