Rassie now key to succession in search for Bok consistency

2020-05-06 13:12
Rassie Erasmus (Getty)
Rassie Erasmus (Getty)

When Jacques Nienaber was unveiled as the new Springbok head coach earlier this year, replacing Rassie Erasmus, it was an announcement that didn't take anyone by surprise. 

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Nienaber has been Erasmus' right-hand man for well over a decade, dating back to their time together at the Free State Cheetahs in 2004. 

Since then, Nienaber and Erasmus have worked together at the Stormers, in the SA Rugby high-performance structures, at Munster in Ireland and, more recently, they took the Springboks from the lowest of lows to World Cup winners in 18 months. 

Erasmus has been hailed as the saviour of South African rugby and as he now steps into his role as Director of Rugby on a full-time basis, handing the Springbok reins over to Nienaber was a sensible development that would breed consistency. 

The issue, though, is that the Springbok management team heading into 2020 already looks very different from the one that triumphed in Japan. 

It wasn't long after the tournament ended that forwards coach Matt Proudfoot accepted a highly lucrative offer to join Eddie Jones and England while, on Tuesday this week, it was confirmed that conditioning specialist Aled Walters was also on his way out

It means that the 2020 Springboks will have new occupants of three key coaching positions and, suddenly, that desired consistency looks to be a bit out of reach. 

Proudfoot was the likeliest to leave and Erasmus knew of the offer from England as soon as it came. After a meeting with the former Stormers man, Erasmus told Proudfoot that he understood the decision and wished him well. 

Losing Walters, though, came as a shock. 

The details surrounding the development are yet to emerge, but it appears as though Walters will be signing shortly with a European club while the financial uncertainty that has accompanied the global coronavirus crisis also seems to have played a significant role. 

It all contributes towards South African rugby's present state of limbo. 

Thanks to the coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown, there is no clarity on exactly when - or if - professional rugby will return in 2020. 

It leaves any domestic tournaments SA Rugby had planned in doubt while the July Tests against Scotland and Georgia, this year's Rugby Championship and the end of year tour all run the risk of being canned. 

SA Rugby is obviously desperate to get back on the park as soon as possible - the financial implications of not playing are severe - but at this stage it is out of their hands. 

When they do meet in camp, on the training field or slip back into the green and gold, how long will have passed since their World Cup triumph? Will any momentum from what they achieved in 2019 still be at play? 

Erasmus is becoming increasingly crucial to the next phase. He was always going to be, but now that the Boks have lost a couple of familiar faces, he might have to be even more hands-on than what he had planned to be in the first few months of the Nienaber regime. 

If you speak to the players who worked under Walters since he joined the fray in 2018, they will all tell you of how intricate and specific to the individual needs of the player his conditioning programme was. 

Having been a part of Erasmus and Nienaber's backroom team at Munster, Walters came incredibly highly rated. They had seen his work first-hand and knew the benefits of getting him involved in the World Cup campaign.

Walters knew exactly the type of player that Erasmus was looking to cultivate to fit his game style and his unique approach to fitness had the buy-in from the Boks themselves. 

Popular with the players and meticulous with all he did, Walters turned the Springboks into one of the fittest teams in Japan and he was considered key to South Africa's successful campaign. His departure hurts. 

Deon Davids has been appointed as the new Springbok forwards coach, replacing Proudfoot, while Daan Human will assist in that department. 

The new conditioning coach, meanwhile, will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Nienaber was appointed for continuity's sake but, after a closer look, it seems that in many ways the Springboks will be starting over.  

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  rugby


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