Just hours before Allister Coetzee and SA Rugby officially parted ways, Rassie Erasmus said South African rugby has enough quality players for the Boks to become a force to be reckoned with in time for the 2019 World Cup.
The newly appointed director of rugby pointed out that there are 18 Test matches before the next World Cup, and reiterated that the most important thing is to plot the way forward over the next 600 days.
Speaking to media at the launch of the new SA Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch on Thursday night, Erasmus made it very clear that meticulous planning was already well underway as the Boks head towards the fast-approaching 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“We’ve got 18 Test matches before the next World Cup, and around 600 days, so we have to utilise each of those days,” he told SARugbymag.co.za.
“We have to get to know the players and the coaches, understand what’s going on, and to integrate ourselves into their systems. We have to catch up a bit to the other teams that are ranked one to three, but we’ve started the process, and we know that we have to begin the planning now and not just wait until it’s around the time of a Test match.”
A pertinent question is certainly whether Erasmus and his coaching team – which is set to be finalised before the end of February – will have enough time to execute a turnaround plan in order for the Boks to once again compete with the best before the next World Cup.
Exodus of players to overseas clubs
One of the major problems facing SA rugby is the ongoing exodus of players to overseas clubs, but Erasmus insisted that there was enough quality to draw on in South African rugby circles.
“Our biggest asset is that we have a tremendous amount of players, and if we utilise those players well, then we can become one of the big powers in world rugby again. Those are the things we are looking at closely.
“One of the biggest things is access to players, and that’s why I’m travelling around to see the franchises and coaches. It’s also about the management of players, some of whom have tripartite contracts, so there are lots of things where we are looking to build a working relationship built on trust.
“If a franchise doesn’t do well, I must be worried, but if they do well, I must be proud with them. So we’re on the road a lot and meeting with all the roleplayers at the various franchises to discuss this stuff, and to also get to know the players.”
The first challenge for the Springboks and Erasmus will be the upcoming three-Test series against England in June, and despite the fact Coetzee’s exit has only just been officially confirmed, the director of rugby suggested that it wasn’t a major problem.
‘I think all of us want things [with the coaching roles and responsibilities] to be in place as soon as possible, but I don’t see it as a massive problem. I can take you back to 2012 when Heyneke [Meyer] was appointed, we did all the planning [behind the scenes], but a lot of the support staff were only confirmed shortly before the start of that first Test series, and we beat England in that series. It was the same with Allister two years ago, and we beat Ireland 2-1 [in June 2016].”