Sadly, the Rugby World Cup final was Rassie Erasmus’ final match as coach of the Springboks.
Quite a decent way to bow out, I think we can all agree.
Whilst the dust has yet to settle on what was a momentous weekend for the country as a whole, that doesn’t mean there isn’t already plenty of speculation about who will take over in the hot seat, now that Rassie is focusing on his role as Director of Rugby.
Leading the charge, reports Sport24, is current defence coach Jacques Nienaber, whose work was highlighted in the lead-up to the final:
The new coach will report directly to Erasmus and according to Netwerk24, current defence coach Nienaber is the likely candidate to step into the head coaching role.
Erasmus and Nienaber have a long history, having first met in the army before crossing paths at the University of the Free State’s Shimlas team where Nienaber was the physiotherapist and Erasmus the captain.
When Erasmus became coach of the Free State Cheetahs, he appointed Nienaber as strength and conditioning coach, with the latter later shifting his focus to the team’s defensive structures.
Nienaber followed Erasmus to the Stormers and also Munster in Ireland, before starting at the Springboks last year.
It’s clear that Rassie has an immense amount of respect for, and trust in, Nienaber’s ability, and the same can be said for some of the team’s leaders.
Here’s SA Rugby Mag:
When probed about Nienaber’s potential promotion from assistant to head coach, No 8 Duane Vermeulen said it would be a fantastic appointment.
‘Jacques is a fantastic person. When I first met him, he was a physiotherapist and now he is the defence coach. I don’t know who is going to take over, but he would be a good replacement,’ Vermeulen said.
‘It’s nice to see someone who is part of the coaching set-up take the next step in their career … if it is going to be him. Jacques understands how we play and how we want to move forward as a team.’
At this point, I think South African rugby fans agree on one thing – whatever Rassie decides, we back. He’s earned that much, and if Nienaber does take over, the transition between coaches will be far smoother than if we appointed someone from outside the current coaching structure.
While we’re talking about people bowing out at the top, let’s also pay some respects to Francois Louw, who has played his last match for the Boks.
I’m sure his 76th will go down as his favourite, having formed part of the ‘Bomb Squad’ that helped the Boks overpower England. This below via SuperSport:
“It does cap my career, that was officially my last game for South Africa,” said the man known as Flo to all and sundry.
“Some 10 years on from making my debut and 76 games for South Africa I could not have asked for a better way to end what has been a long and enjoyable but also challenging road. It was a tough road at times, recently went through two very dark years in Springbok history. And to come back to form a united team like we did, to be fully representative of South Africa in the process, well that was special.
“To top it by winning the World Cup is something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” he added.
His late penalty win against the Welsh, which was slotted by Handrè Pollard to secure the 19-16 semi-final win, was typical of the player who has had a massive impact off the bench (and off the field) throughout the tournament.
Whilst some individual players will be singled out in the years that follow, perhaps the greatest tribute that can be paid to this Springbok team is to remember how it was the sum of so many working parts that led to its success.
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