Rassie Erasmus has confirmed he is to return as the head coach of the world champions, South Africa, and is expected to lead the team’s preparations for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Jacques Nienaber guided the Springboks to their second successive World Cup triumph this year, but will now take up a new role at Irish side Leinster. Erasmus will return to the position he held when South Africa lifted the trophy in 2019, having been heavily involved in the side’s 2023 triumph as their director of rugby.
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The South African newspaper Rapport has reported that Erasmus will now take over Nienaber’s duties, with a view to challenging for an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup triumph. Felix Jones, an assistant coach under Nienaber, will be joining Steve Borthwick’s England setup.
Erasmus is revered in South Africa for his innovation, tactical acumen and ability to get the best out of the players at his disposal. His influence was never far from the Springboks team as they defended their title in France, but the outspoken coach has also courted controversy at times.
The 51-year-old has come under fire for social media posts criticising opponents, while his video critique of the Australian referee Nic Berry after losing the first test in the 2021 series against the British & Irish Lions earned him a lengthy match-day ban from World Rugby.
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What is not in question, however, is his ability to galvanise the Springboks on and off the pitch when it matters most. After lifting the World Cup as head coach four years ago, Erasmus took the reins as director of rugby and steered the team to a record fourth World Cup title, clinched with a 12-11 victory over New Zealand in the final.
“Where Rassie is very good is looking at the cause of the problem and saying: ‘This is what we need to fix’,” the former South Africa assistant coach Matt Proudfoot told Sport24. “He is driven by that process; he never sleeps looking for that advantage.”
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Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids, assistant coaches under Nienaber, are expected to remain in their roles along with the head of athletic performance, Andy Edwards, and the scrum coach, Daan Human.