Wellington — Springbok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot has leapt to the defence of beleaguered coach Rassie Erasmus and insisted they do not fear the axe.

Erasmus has come under intense pressure after successive defeats to Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship and the coach conceded on Monday that his job would be on the line if the Boks suffer a humiliating defeat against New Zealand on Saturday.

The Boks are no longer in the running to win the tournament, but a defiant Proudfoot said they will continue to build a strong and transformed squad for the 2019 World Cup even if it means losing their jobs.

“Rassie’s planning is spot on‚” Proudfoot said on Tuesday. “We realise as coaches and management‚ and this is driven by Rassie himself‚ that we may be fired for individual losses. Then so be it.

“We have started the process to develop an SA team that represents a united nation and this is what this is about. If he [Erasmus] is to be fired as the head coach or director of rugby‚ so be it. We are prepared to serve this team according to what SA rugby stands for,” he said.

Proudfoot‚ who was part of the ill-fated reign of Allister Coetzee‚ said they are all behind Erasmus. “We are all aligned as the management behind him‚” Proudfoot said.

“I have worked in management teams of various coaches and what has impressed me about Rassie is his honesty‚ his management style and the philosophy he believes in.

“There has been a buy-in from everybody and if I was not aligned to the plan‚ I would not be here. We are confident about the plan. We continuously strive to make this group better.

“The squad has been brought together in its composition to build a team that will be competitive at the World Cup.

“That’s why when we went to Argentina we put young guys in place to get caps to make sure that they are ready for the challenge of the World Cup.

“We have got massive challenges along the way and winning games is one of them‚ but making sure that players improve week to week is our biggest task. That is what we are as coaches and management and if we get results along the way‚ we are going to enjoy it.”

He said they are not bothered by the stinging criticism that has come from some former players. “We hear it [the criticism]‚ but in as much as there are people criticising us there are those who are supporting us.

“I can show you messages on my phone of former players who say we must just stick to what we are doing.

‘‘They can see the effort that is being made by the players on the field.

“Mistakes are going to happen when you are developing a side. One thing we can say is that there is effort and that is what we stand for.

‘‘The more experience this team get and the more aligned they get and execution will improve.”