Jacques Nienaber. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Jacques Nienaber. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The worst-kept secret in rugby will be official on Thursday when Rassie Erasmus is presented as the new Springbok coach‚ a month after Allister Coetzee was sacked.

Erasmus‚ 45‚ will become the 14th man to be appointed since 1992‚ when SA was allowed back into international sport.

The former Bok flank‚ who is currently employed as SA Rugby’s director of rugby‚ will retain his current title and it remains unclear if he will also take on the title of "Springbok coach".

What is clear is that the buck stops with Erasmus and results‚ tactics and all the other factors that come with the job will be his responsibility.

Pieter de Villiers. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Pieter de Villiers. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Job titles may be opaque‚ but Erasmus is going to be the man in charge. Among his management team to be named on Thursday are defence specialist Jacques Nienaber‚ skills coach Mzwandile Stick and scrum guru Pieter de Villiers.

Nienaber worked with Erasmus at the Cheetahs‚ Stormers and at Munster in Ireland.

Former Blitzbok player Stick will take on the role of skills coach, while former French prop De Villiers will also be on the management ticket as scrum coach and perhaps a broader role with the forwards.

Stick and De Villiers have worked with previous Bok regimes — the former in 2016 under Coetzee and the latter as a consultant under Heyneke Meyer from 2012 to 2015.

In late January‚ in a parting shot to SA Rugby CE Jurie Roux‚ Coetzee fired off an angry letter in which he questioned Erasmus’s credentials while also wondering about the sense of appointing a white coach.

Coetzee laments that black administrators such as president Mark Alexander and deputy president Francois Davids instructed Roux to inform him that he was to be sidelined. Initially, SA Rugby offered Coetzee the role of "ceremonial coach"‚ answering to Erasmus. Understandably, he refused the indignity of that demotion‚ which was probably SA Rugby’s hope.

Coetzee also accused SA Rugby of manipulating Erasmus’s appointment‚ although there is no detail on how and despite the fact that he had been in Ireland for almost the duration of Coetzee’s tenure.

"The stratagem devised by Saru offends the transformation charter of Saru‚" Coetzee wrote.

"Firstly‚ it is distasteful‚ to say the least‚ to use me‚ as a black South African‚ as a pawn in a manner which can only be described as deeply reprehensible. The stratagem is clearly‚ in my view‚ unconstitutional because it infringes my right to dignity and equality.

"It also aims to defeat‚ in an unconstitutional manner‚ the ideals and values entrenched in the Constitution.

"The fact that those who mandated you [Roux] to inform me of Saru’s decision are persons of colour makes it even more regrettable.

"Secondly‚ notwithstanding Saru’s clear commitment to adhere to its transformation charter and its stated intention to eradicate discrimination on any grounds‚ Rassie’s appointment‚ with respect‚ does not give effect to transformation of rugby in general.

"It is astonishing that Saru had mandated you to inform me that they plan to reduce me to a ceremonial coach who must answer to Rassie, who‚ with respect, is a lesser qualified coach," Coetzee wrote.

It’s debatable whether Erasmus is less qualified.

Erasmus‚ like Coetzee at the time of his appointment in 2016‚ does not have head coach experience at Test level.

Neither did Kitch Christie‚ Nick Mallett‚ Jake White and Peter de Villiers — SA’s four most successful post-isolation coaches — when they were appointed.