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Rassie Erasmus set to stand down as Springboks coach after World Cup

Rassie Erasmus. Jono Searle/Getty Images

Rassie Erasmus will step down as Springboks coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Erasmus made the announcement in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with SuperSport commentator Matt Pearce, in which he reflected on his first year in charge as both head coach of the Boks and Director of Rugby.

"I'm only head coach until the World Cup next year," he said, noting that he has a six-year contract only as Director of Rugby.

The Director of Rugby role requires Erasmus to work with all structures under the SA Rugby banner - including the junior sides, women's sides and even the unions and Super Rugby franchises - but he has had to forgo much of those responsibilities in 2018 having taken on the role of Springboks head coach after Allister Coetzee was sacked.

"When I was appointed Director of Rugby ... at that stage I still thought Allister Coetzee was continuing," Erasmus said. "The leadership asked Allister to step down, and then asked me to step in.

"The moment I am finished with this [head coach role] and for the next six months, I will be involved with [the other SA Rugby structures] a lot."

Erasmus said he had agreed to replace Coetzee because it wouldn't have been fair to appoint an outsider with 18 Tests to prepare a team for Rugby World Cup.

"For somebody from the outside to all of a sudden have just 18 Test matches to prepare the team for the World Cup, I didn't think that would be fair to that coach. It would have been a 'suicide job'. And for myself, who's been in the position before [as director], it made sense when they asked me.

"Obviously, the flagship of SA Rugby is the Springboks. That was the first stop that we had to fix; the previous year, the only teams we beat were Italy, France and Argentina. It was a year and half out from the World Cup, we were also smashed by the All Blacks and Ireland, so it was the first port of call to fix the Springboks."

Erasmus finished the year with a 50 percent win record, which he described as "not good enough", but the victory against New Zealand in Wellington and a number of other performances - in particular the two victories at home against England, and the narrow defeat by the All Blacks in Pretoria - have seen a feeling of optimism about the progress his team has made in their World Cup preparations.

Erasmus spoke also about the transformation of the team, saying that SA Rugby's long-term goal remained on track even though he had failed in his first year as Springboks coach to ensure that 45 percent of team selections in 2018 were made up of players of colour.

That ratio must rise to 50 percent in 2019, after Erasmus' selection this year featured just 38.3 percent players of color.

Erasmus said he was willing to accept criticism for failing to meet the 45 percent target this year, but he said that he would not "cheapen transformation" by simply picking players to make up the numbers.

"There was a target of 45 percent for this year, and next year there's a target of 50 percent," Erasmus said.

"I didn't meet that first target, but let me explain. It's a number that's there because otherwise you can just find excuses... this is about really transforming, changing the environment and providing equal opportunities.

"When you look at the team this year, we had guys like Beast [Mtawarira], Warrick [Gelant], Lukhanyo [Am] and [Makazole] Mapimpi who got injured, but you then can't just cheapen transformation... for example, if a black hooker gets injured and you have to replace him with a white hooker, then you don't want to be forced to replace a white winger with a black winger [just to meet the numbers].

"If you do that, that's when people become upset because you're now taking one guy off and bringing in another just for the numbers."

Much as he said that he had elected through the season to avoid "crisis-management" coaching and selections, preferring to establish a plan and a strategy that would best prepare to Springboks to defeat New Zealand rather than simply looking at the next fixture, Erasmus said that he and SA Rugby had to adopt a long-term view regarding transformation.

"It's about providing guys with exposure slowly, and there are a whole host of [black] players who we feel will be ready in the years to come," he said.

"I'll take the blame if one of my KPIs wasn't achieved [in 2018], but I look at the depth we've created and I believe that when we go to the World Cup there will be the necessary numbers to take to the World Cup.

"I think the transformation goal has been achieved; maybe not the number, but the goal. I'm not going to cheapen transformation because the numbers couldn't be reached."

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