South Africa is back with Erasmus: the current director of rugby is to resume his role as coach of the Springboks, who were crowned champions at the 2023 World Cup, four years after leaving it to his sidekick Jacques Nienaber.
"I can confirm that Rassie Erasmus will combine his duties as director of rugby and coach of the Springboks," a senior SA Rugby official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The strongman of South African rugby, who celebrates his 51st birthday on Sunday, has been spoilt for choice for his birthday, having been offered the reins of the now four-time world champions for the second time in his life.
In making this choice, which has been in the pipeline for several days, SA Rugby is opting for stability to take over from Nienaber.
Erasmus' former deputy, who was in charge of defence for his Stormers, Western Province (2008-2014) and Munster (2016-2017) teams, announced several months ago that he would be taking over the reins of Irish franchise Leinster after the French World Cup.
Rassie Erasmus had retained a central role in the Boks staff. Even though he had left the coach's position to Nienaber, the former third row continued to have a major influence on the choice of men and playing systems.
- Tactical moves -
He has remained in the spotlight thanks to his qualities as a technician and a few scathing remarks about referees. One of these earned him a suspension in 2021 when he criticised England's Wayne Barnes, whose family had been insulted on social networks. But aside from these antics, the innovations and tactical moves he made alongside Nienaber during the 2023 World Cup once again demonstrated his domination of world rugby.
The Springboks, for example, fielded a bench of seven forwards on several occasions during the World Cup, before surprising everyone, especially the favourites France, with only five "big" players among the substitutes in the quarter-final win over Les Bleus (29-28).In 2018, he put a struggling side back on track when he took over as coach of the Boks, a year and a half before winning a third world title in Japan.
Four years later, he was on the pitch at the Stade de France after the fourth final, against the All Blacks, to congratulate his grunts De Klerk, Kolisi and Etzebeth.
He will now have to manage the potential end of the cycle for an ageing generation that has won the World Cup twice (2019 and 2023), with a view to the 2027 World Cup in Australia, while many of the Springboks' key players are over 30.
To this end, Johan C. Erasmus, as he is known in full, is considering adding tough third-row Duane Vermeulen to his staff, according to the South African media.
He could also continue to benefit from his own work, which began ten years ago when, in 2013, he helped launch the Elite Player Development (EPD) programme aimed at identifying and supporting emerging talent from underprivileged backgrounds in a country where the fractures linked to Apartheid are still visible.
Siya Kolisi, the first black captain in the history of the Springboks, and who lifted the two Webb-Ellis trophies won by the South Africans in 2019 and 2023, is a product of this programme. He will be 36 in 2027, when Erasmus will be aiming for a fifth-world crown for the Boks. The third for 'Rassie'