Erasmus edging closer to Springboks top job

by AFP

The worst-kept secret in South African rugby could be revealed Wednesday with the official naming of Johan "Rassie" Erasmus as Springboks coach.

Since Allister Coetzee was sacked this month after winning only 11 of 25 Tests in two seasons, it has been accepted that South Africa director of rugby Erasmus will take over.

But the 45-year-old former Springbok loose forward and the country's rugby officials have remained silent.

On Monday an SA Rugby media release promised a "major announcement" in Johannesburg on Wednesday and the assumption is that Erasmus will be confirmed as coach.

He has already been acting as national coach, travelling to Europe and watching future opponents England beat Wales in a Six Nations match in London.Erasmus is tipped to take over from Allister Coetzee. Photo: Getty ImagesErasmus also reportedly visited Japan, the 2019 Rugby World Cup host nation, to inspect accommodation and training facilities.

South Africa were ranked sixth in the world this week behind world champions New Zealand, England, Ireland, Australia and Scotland.

Springbok supporters find this a bitter pill to swallow, believing the team should be challenging the All Blacks for top spot.

However, overtaking their greatest rivals, who have won 11 of the last 12 Tests against the Springboks, is an unrealistic short-term goal.

Opponents were quick last season to expose Springboks failings, including one of the basics of the game - catching lofted kicks under pressure. 

The Springboks season begins on June 2 with a one-off Test against Wales in Washington DC.The Springboks struggled through the Coetzee era. Photo: Getty ImagesThey then host England in a three-match series from June 9.

Home and away Rugby Championship fixtures against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand follow before an unfinalised tour to Europe, which will include another Test against England.

Erasmus, who quit as director of rugby at Irish outfit Munster last year, faces a herculean task as South Africa have plumbed the depths during the past two seasons.

Under Coetzee the team set a number of unwanted record including a 57-0 thrashing in New Zealand last year, the heaviest loss suffered by South Africa since their 1891 international debut. 

In 2016, the All Blacks won 57-15 in Durban to inflict the biggest home defeat on the Springboks.

The country that won the World Cup in 1995 and 2007 also lost to Italy, at home to Ireland and away to Argentina for the first times.