Cape Town - SA Rugby’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has assured Springbok fans that planning is well under way for the season ahead.
This despite the uncertainty regarding the coaching personnel of the Springboks, with head coach Allister Coetzee and SA Rugby at loggerheads.
Last weekend, it emerged that the embattled national coach had hit out at his employers in a letter addressed to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
Coetzee sent a 19-page document via his legal representatives to Roux in a bid to show that almost all of the problems during his two-year tenure were due to external factors.
Coetzee won only 11 of his 25 Tests (44%) in charge of the two-time world champions since his appointment in 2016.
SA Rugby reportedly wants to relieve Coetzee of his duties and it remains unclear when the matter will be resolved.
Erasmus, meanwhile, has been tipped to take over the coaching responsibilities of the Springboks.
He addressed media at an induction function for the SA Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch on Thursday night where he shed more light on his role.
Erasmus would not confirm whether he would be directly involved coaching the Springboks but assured fans that planning for the June series against England was well under way.
“We are ranked sixth in the world, so my immediate focus and the big ticket is to fix things as soon as possible,” Erasmus was quoted as saying by SA Rugbymag.
Erasmus said the uncertainty regarding the Springbok coaching staff was not a concern, despite a three-Test series looming against Eddie Jones’ charges.
“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).
“So, there has been planning going on behind the scenes, and of course we want to get that clarity, but there is a process that has to run its course. However, it’s not hindering us in the background and it isn't affecting my role as director of rugby, which is to ensure that we are as well prepared as possible to be able to beat England in that first Test series.”
The Boks and England will clash in three Tests in June, starting on June 9 in Johannesburg, followed by matches in Bloemfontein (June 16) and Cape Town (June 23).
In his letter, Coetzee also criticised SA Rugby’s decision to appoint Erasmus.
Coetzee said it was “shocking” that he was being used as a “ceremonial” coach that must report to Erasmus, who Coetzee “with respect” described as “less competent”.
Under the guidance of Coetzee, the Springboks endured a torrid two years, with several unwanted records being set which include:
- First ever defeat to Ireland in South Africa - in 2016
- Biggest defeat to Ireland - 38-3 in 2017
- First ever away defeat to Argentina
- First ever defeat to Italy
- Worst ever year in Springbok history - 4 wins from 12 Tests in 2016
- Most points ever conceded against New Zealand (57) in both 2016 and 2017
- Biggest margin of defeat in Springbok history - against New Zealand in 2017 (57-0)