PRETORIA • Rugby World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus may have stepped down from his position, but he has promised to maintain a hands-on role with the Springboks.
The 47-year-old led South Africa to their third Cup in Japan in November, but has opted to step aside for Jacques Nienaber, who was appointed the world champions' new coach last Friday.
However, that does not mean Erasmus is abandoning the Boks as not only will he remain the country's director of rugby, but he will also still be a part of the management team.
The former flanker said: "I will be there in the coaches' box with him (Nienaber). I will be accountable if the Springboks don't win.
"By appointing a head coach now, it will free up myself to think a little bit more strategic."
While Nienaber has never played top-class rugby or coached any senior team, he played a crucial role as the Boks' defence coach at the last Cup and won plenty of plaudits for their tactical success in the 32-12 final victory over England in Yokohama.
Erasmus is also confident his successor, whom he has known for over 20 years, can live up to the expectations of the fans.
They first met while serving with the South African military in Bloemfontein and both were involved in Free State rugby in the 1990s.
When Erasmus became coach of the Cheetahs in 2004, he appointed Nienaber as his strength and conditioning coach.
The latter then followed his mentor to the Stormers and also to Munster in Ireland, before linking up at the Boks in 2018.
On Nienaber, who is also a qualified physiotherapist, Erasmus said: "Jacques is highly experienced and has worked with the Springboks on three separate occasions, so (he) knows what the job is about."
Nienaber returned the compliment, expressing his belief that their long-established partnership "will help to drive the strategic goals we had when we came over in 2018".
He added: "To get on top is tough and to stay on top is tough. It will be a nice challenge for us."