Rassie Erasmus has begun the process to find the next Springbok coach, as well as preparing a succession plan that should see the national side peaking in 2023. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Erasmus was appointed as SA Rugby’s director of rugby in late 2017. When he took on the added responsibility of coaching the Boks in early 2018 there were whispers that he would vacate this post after the 2019 World Cup.
It remains to be seen whether one of Erasmus’ current lieutenants will be elevated in 2020. Jacques Nienaber has been Erasmus’ right-hand man since the pair was at the Cheetahs in the mid-2000s. Assistant Mzwandile Stick has been mentioned as a candidate, as well as Kings coach Deon Davids.
When the question was put to Erasmus at a media briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday, he confirmed that the process had already begun. By this time next year, there will be another man in the hot seat, and Erasmus will be free to focus on his director of rugby role.
‘I’ve begun the process in my own head,’ he said. ‘There are a few names being bounced around. I would be stupid to say who those names are right now, though.
‘We have to sort out this wider succession plan first before we give more attention to that,’ he added, referring to the recently unveiled contracting model that SA Rugby hopes will keep more star players in the Super Rugby and Bok systems.
‘Then it’s about making succession plans for coaches, and I include black coaches, because this has been a big issue. With the pool of pro players getting smaller, the pool of pro coaches will get smaller too. Once we get the succession planning of the players right, we will move on to that.’
Erasmus believes that the Boks can win the World Cup in Japan later this year. At the same time, he is also aware of the problems associated with the current system, and why change is needed sooner rather than later.
‘Why are we putting this in place now? When it comes to succession planning, South African rugby has struggled in the past,’ he said.
‘We are not sure how many players we will lose at the end of the year. Some of the overseas clubs are very rich, and with the exchange rate being what it is, we simply cannot compete.
‘Say four of the marquee players go for a combined amount of R40-million. Some of the franchises only have a budget of R60-million, so you can see how it’s problematic. We can’t bat against those overseas teams and their offers.
‘That’s why we’ve had to do something different. Say there are 30 first-choice players that we are looking at keeping. We want to keep them all, but that is not in line with reality. We can maybe keep 18 of those in South Africa and 12 will go overseas. The money that we were going to use for those 12 gets fed back into the system and put into developing the younger guys at the other end of the scale.
‘It’s hard to know what the numbers are until we know for sure how many players leave at the end of the season,’ he added. ‘It’s going to take about two or three years to reap the benefits of this model. We’re going to take a bit of a knock initially after the World Cup.’
Erasmus also confirmed that from 2020 SA Rugby will enforce World Rugby’s Regulation 9. Ultimately, players who are plying their trade abroad will have to be released for international duty during the designated windows.
As the Bok coach confirms, this wasn’t the case last year, with some players missing Tests due to club commitments.
‘Up until now it has been give and take with the clubs. For example, a guy like Faf de Klerk has been doing well at Sale, and we haven’t wanted to jeopardise his relationship with his coach and club. But we’ve made it clear that by 2020 we are going to be enforcing Regulation 9. We are giving some players time to make the decision about whether they want to play for their country or not.
‘Those who are still weighing up offers will have to make that decision of sacrificing an international career for more money. The coaches of those clubs will also have to decide whether they want to sign a player who is going to be away on international duty.
‘It’s not about playing hardball, it’s just about enforcing the rules. This is not a threat, it is reality.’
There are also plans to alter the management of player resources across the respective franchises competing in the Vodacom Super Rugby and Pro14 tournaments. According to Erasmus, South African rugby would do well to emulate New Zealand in deploying players where they are needed or where they can enjoy more game time.
‘I’m speaking to the CEOs of all the franchises about the succession plan. We want to look at spreading the talent so you don’t have a situation where one franchise has all the top players or a lot of good players in one position.’
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