Rassie Erasmus must be the envy of every coach in the world. In South Africa, he’s Mr Rugby.
SA Rugby’s board has apppointed Erasmus the director of rugby and Springbok head coach, and they’ve given him an unprecedented six-year contract.
In this game, if you can take a job where the board wants you, the CEO is your mate and you get everything you ask for, it’s like you’ve died and gone to heaven. It doesn’t get better than that.
From someone who has been in that situation I can say that he’s a very fortunate guy. I can’t think of another professional sports coach that’s been given that kind of freedom and backing – the All Blacks, who have a 90-percent win rate, didn’t give Steve Hansen a six-year deal after he won the World Cup.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’m very jealous – Allister Coetzee, Nick Mallett, Rudolf Straeuli and Ian McIntosh must feel the same way.
Looking back now, I lost my job as Bok coach because I challenged SA Rugby to allow me to pick my own management team, have the final say on selections, bring back overseas-based players and I asked for a longer contract to build a legacy. These were things that upset the decision makers, and were also the things that those former Bok coaches fought for and were denied.
In a lot of ways, it’s a sign of real progress that the Bok coach is now getting what he asks for and you have to give SA Rugby credit for making those changes.
However, I would like to know what has happened to the director of rugby role, which they said was incredibly important – so much so that they scrambled to reacquire Erasmus from Munster. Now that he’s back, they’ve also given him the national coaching job and he’s admitted that he’ll spend 70 percent of his time on the Springboks.
Between 2012 and 2016, SA Rugby paid the same director of rugby to spend 100 percent of his time putting systems in place and streamlining pathways for all of the national teams, except the Springboks. Then, during Coetzee’s term, SA Rugby realised that they actually needed a director of rugby and they were very pleased to bring back the guy who had left the job 18 months earlier. And now it’s okay that the director of rugby only spends 30 percent of his time in that role.
Either SA Rugby has been deceitful about the reasons why they originally brought Erasmus back, or they’ve massively oversold the importance of the director of rugby role. So which one is it?
If they genuinely thought they needed a director of rugby, then surely they wouldn’t leave that post in the hands of a man who can only devote less than a third of his time to the job?
David Nucifora is Ireland’s full-time director of rugby, Scott Johnson is Scotland’s full-time director of rugby, and New Zealand’s five Super Rugby coaches are contracted directly to the national union, so they all report to head office.
SA Rugby can’t claim that Erasmus is doubling up due to financial constraints because, after being approached by them last year, I offered to fill the vacant post of director of rugby for free, only to eventually be told that I wasn’t part of their plans.
The reason Erasmus went to Munster was because Coetzee, like Heyneke Meyer before him, refused to accept a structure where Erasmus had jurisdiction over the Springboks.
Wouldn’t it be extremely ironic if Erasmus has now been handed both roles because, as Bok coach, he doesn’t want to have a director of rugby looking over his shoulder?