Springboks

Springboks: 5 issues facing the world champions

2019-11-23 07:14
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Choosing a successor to Rassie Erasmus as head coach is a pressing issue for the Springboks as they bask in the glory of lifting the Rugby World Cup for a record-matching third time.

Former national team loose forward Erasmus was given a six-year contract as director of rugby last year, putting him in charge of all the national male and female teams.

But with the embattled Springboks in desperate need of stability a year before the World Cup, he also became head coach of the team.

Now, with Erasmus changing roles a new head coach needs to be appointed.

But the mastermind behind the World Cup triumph in Japan insists he will not be lost to the most popular national team in the republic.

"I will be heavily involved whatever way we are going to go with the head coach," he stressed to AFP.

AFP Sport looks at five issues surrounding the world champions as they prepare to defend being ranked the world's number one side.

1. Coach

Springboks defence coach Jacques Nienaber has worked with Erasmus at the Cheetahs and Stormers in South Africa as well as Munster in Ireland and is the favourite for the position.

Gloucester and former Lions coach Johan Ackermann has his supporters, but a poor racial transformation record is likely to count against him.

Backs coach Mzwandile Stick is set to stay, but the contract of forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot has expired and he may give way to ex-France prop Pieter de Villiers.

Proudfoot is the only assistant who predates the appointment of Erasmus while De Villiers is jobless after being fired last week as an assistant at French Top 14 outfit Stade Francais.

2. Opponents

South Africa would have preferred more attractive July 2020 opponents than Scotland and Georgia, but the popularity of the Springboks should ensure bumper crowds.

Scotland failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals while second-tier Georgia, boasting a strong pack but little backline invention, lost three of four pool matches.

Officials will hope Argentina and Australia attract bigger crowds than in recent editions of the Rugby Championship before a guaranteed sell-out against arch rivals New Zealand at a venue to be decided.

Opponents for a November tour of Europe are yet to be announced, but there is unlikely to be a rematch of the World Cup final with England reportedly already fully booked.

3. Retirements

Prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira, hooker Schalk Brits and loose forward Francois Louw have officially quit from a World Cup squad that expanded from 31 players to 33 owing to injuries.

That leaves two 30-plus Springboks - number eight Duane Vermeulen, 33, and utility back Francois Steyn, 32, who are yet to decide whether they will carry on or retire.

Both may be tempted to remain available with the British and Irish Lions coming to South Africa in 2021.

Steyn was a pivotal figure in the succesful six forwards/two backs replacements split at the World Cup as he covered the fullback, centre and flyhalf positions.

4. Newcomers

By the time Scotland arrive, there will be many players who did not go to Japan challenging those who did for run-on and bench places.

Incumbent fullback Willie le Roux was poor at times and Warrick Gelant and Damian Willemse are rivals while some would like to see Cheslin Kolbe there with Sibusiso Nkosi on the wing.

With Mtawarira retiring, Steven Kitshoff is set to be the first choice loosehead, leaving Lizo Gqoboka, 'Ox' Nche and Thomas du Toit competing for the understudy role.

Joseph Dweba, Akker van der Merwe and Scarra Ntubeni will be eyeing the place vacated by Brits and many view young Juarno Augustus as a potential successor when Vermeulen calls it a day.

5. 'Brain drain'

With the rand remaining extremely weak against the dollar, euro and pound, the 'brain drain' to Europe and Japan will continue, with even schoolboys being targeted.

Reports from Ireland say two World Cup winners, centre Damian de Allende and lock RG Snyman, have signed two-year contracts with Munster, whose coach is South African Johann van Graan.

It used to be just Springboks who were lured by salaries up to three times higher than at home, then domestic stars went abroad, and now schoolboys have joined the exodus.

Kade Wolhuter, a flyhalf who was voted the best player at a recent provincial schools tournament, has signed a three-year contract with Top 14 club Montpellier.

Foreign-based players are considered for Springbok selection, but there is concern over the rapidly expanding number of South Africans playing abroad.

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  rugby

 

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