The dust has barely settled on the Springboks momentous RWC final victory so forgive me if it’s too early to start speculating on the following topic … the next Bok coach. In an ideal world, Rassie would put some ink on a new bumper deal that would see him through to the next world cup at least. Unfortunately, yet understandably, this is not the case. Rassie has already stated that the Final would be his last game in charge. The good news is that we have not completely lost him and he will remain as Director of Rugby and no doubt keep a close eye on the next coach … who we understand will be appointed by him.
Let’s take a look at a few potential candidates:
Top of the list would have to be Johan Ackermann. Who could forget how he took the beaten up Lions on a similar trajectory toward glory as to what Rassie achieved with the Boks? … also in a short space of time. He is familiar with some of the current crop of players having unearthed Faf de Klerk, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert. Springbok supporters will be happy that he also advocates an attractive brand of rugby. Ackermann recently signed a 2-year extension as Gloucester coach having successfully guided them to the playoffs. How much will that stand in his way? It’s hard to say. Remember England easily bought Eddie Jones out of his freshly signed Stormers contract 4 years ago but the SA Rugby coffers aren’t nearly as well stocked as England’s.
John Mitchell? An astute and respected rugby brain for sure but would he be a popular choice with the players and would SA Rugby break with tradition and pick a non-South African as coach? Well, it’s largely Rassie’s choice as Director of Rugby and it’s unlikely this would be a major factor in his decision making. The fact that he has had a few run ins with players at the Western Force and the Lions may be held against him. He has also recently had his England assistant coach contract extended to 2021 so it would be safe to rule him out.
Franco Smith has worked wonders on a low budget at the Cheetahs winning the Currie Cup and setting the team up to outperform in the Pro 14 competition. He has a very similar background to Rassie having also come from the Free State, played for the Boks and coached the Free State to glory. He is also familiar with the Bok set up, having been an assistant coach to Rassie. He also has an excellent rugby brain and would be a great fit. The problem is that he has signed to coach Italy.
Rassie could take a look at one of his assistants from the current coaching group and promote them. This would be similar to the New Zealand model that has been so successful in that it creates continuity. Matthew Proudfoot, Jacques Nienaber and Mzwandile Stick are the names that could come under consideration here. Nienaber appears to shun the limelight and therefore may not want one of the most pressured jobs in world rugby while Stick may be a little light on experience to be considered for the top job. Proudfoot could be a very sound choice.
Outsiders could be Deon Davids – Rassie rates him highly but he doesn’t have much of a track record; Jimmy Stonehouse and John Dobson.
No chance – Jake White who couldn’t predict the ending of a peppa pig episode; Alistair Coetzee who guided the Boks to one of the worst periods in our rugby history and Peter de Villiers who actually doesn’t even like the Springboks.