Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that he will step down from his role as South Africa head coach following the World Cup final on Saturday.
However, the 47-year-old will remain as the country’s Director of Rugby with current defence coach Jacques Nienaber likely to take over as head coach.
It was thought that Erasmus would stay in the role for the visit of the British & Irish Lions tour in 2021, however, he confirmed that Saturday’s decider against England will be his last game as coach.
“To be honest, it’s been 25 test matches, and is probably my last test – it is my last test match that I will be the head coach. For me, it’s an emotional one in the sense that I didn’t think 25 test matches will go that quickly.
“When I went to Munster, I was sort of in the mode of doing the family thing and making sure that I see my children in the last four or five years before they get out of school, and thinking more strategically in terms of how we are going to get the schoolboys when I got back to South Africa, and help the sevens and help (former South Africa coach) Allister (Coetzee).
“The moment you get hands-on with the Springboks again, the adrenalin starts pumping again and you get back into the mould again, and it is a totally different feeling, and I am enjoying it thoroughly now.
“It’s wonderful to be here. It’s sad that it’s only three days, and then it is all over. But I will be heavily involved, hopefully, still after this – whatever way we are going to go with the head coach.
Erasmus admits that he was sceptical at the beginning as to the influence rugby could have on the country and its people but has since been converted.
“But hell, I must say, me being involved again gives me such hope for what rugby can do for South Africa. I was one of those guys three years ago who said ‘Let’s just play, boys, let’s just play. Stop talking about this hope thing, because everybody is talking about. Rugby is rugby, and let’s just play’.
“But I’ve totally changed my mind. I believe if we play the right way, and with the passion, and the people can see it, it just helps people forget about their problems, and agree with things.
“I have enjoyed it thoroughly, and whatever happens on Saturday, we have to make sure we use this for the next four, five, six, seven years, that it doesn’t get lost again, the positivity, what we get out of Saturday.”
The former Munster coach is hoping that a win over Eddie Jones’ men in Yokohama at the weekend would provide a major boost, not just for South African rugby, but for the country as a whole, as it did in 1995 and 2007.
“In ’95, I was a student in Bloemfontein, and we were staying on the rugby fields there by the university grounds – I was sharing a house with Naka Drotské, who was playing in the World Cup final”, Erasmus recalled.
“We were all watching the game at the university rugby grounds, which is where I was in 1995.
“We all know what impact that had for our country. Should we win it on Saturday – it is already having a big impact for us, having been a little bit more successful.
“I’m not saying we are there yet, but we are being a little bit more successful in terms of our results. We do have some challenges in our country at different levels and at different avenues.
“But rugby is one of the things that – for a few minutes and sometimes a few hours, days and months if we win – people seem to forget about their disagreements and stop disagreeing for a while, and agree.
“What we experienced from 2007 and 1995, they then (don’t) disagree for a long while, and you can fix a lot of things in that time. In South Africa, we need that, and we can feel that.
“That is definitely for us an extra motivation for Saturday, that we know we are trying to win for us 23 (players), but that is the last thing whom we are trying to win for.
“We are trying to win for South Africa, and not just because they are supporters, but because our country needs a lot of things that we want to fix, and we want to help fix that.”