Former Munster boss Rassie Erasmus confirmed as South Africa head coach with first Tests to come against Wales and England
One of the sport's worst-kept secrets is finally out in the open. Rassie Erasmus, who left Munster last year, has been confirmed as South Africa's new head coach on a five-year contract running until at least 2023.
Erasmus replaces Allister Coetzee, who was dismissed in January after two difficult years in the role produced only 11 wins from 25 matches.
Despite originally joining the Springboks in a broader director of rugby role, a move announced in June last year, the signs always pointed to Erasmus being lined up to replace Coetzee as head coach, regardless of South Africa's results during their autumn schedule.
Erasmus received plenty of plaudits for his work with Munster last season, guiding the team to a Champions Cup semi-final and Pro14 final despite the off-field trauma the came from the tragic passing of head coach Anthony Foley.
Two of his colleagues from his time at Munster, Jacques Nienaber and Aled Walters, have joined the new Springbok setup as Defence Coach and Head of Athletic Performance respectively.
“The Springbok team is our flagship brand and the on-field performances have a direct impact on the business of SA Rugby,” said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux.
“Following a very detailed review process of the 2017 season, I believe that we have managed to assemble a strong and experienced Springbok coaching and management staff. We are looking forward to see improved performances this season.”
Former France prop Pieter de Villiers has re-joined the side as a scrum consultant, while Mzwandile Stick has also returned as backs coach despite receiving plenty of criticism during his previous stint in the role back in 2016.
South Africa's first game under Erasmus will be against Wales in a one-off Test to be played in Washington DC on June 2, before taking on England in a three-Test series on home soil.
One of the early challenges facing the former Springbok flanker will be accommodating top Springbok players currently based in Europe.
South Africa's current eligibility requirements require players based overseas to have a minimum of 30 caps in order to represent the Springboks.
Players who fall into that over 30-cap category include Willie le Roux (Wasps), Frans Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis, Jan Serfontein (all Montpellier), Duane Vermeulen, JP Pietersen (both Toulon) and Pat Lambie (Racing 92).
Juan de Jongh (Wasps), Faf de Klerk (Sale) and Vincent Koch (Saracens) all have less than the required amount of caps and would need to return to play in South Africa in order to be eligible for selection.
“It is a huge task to coach the Springboks and I am very privileged,” said Erasmus. “I really believe we have the players and the rugby IP (intellectual property) to turn things around and to mount a serious challenge at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
“We have 18 Tests and just under 600 days until Japan 2019 and although a lot of planning has already gone into our Rugby World Cup preparation, it is very important that we prepare thoroughly for the matches against Wales and England in June.”