“Eben is so athletic, but I don’t know if he still has a World Cup in him.”
Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that he will resume duty as Springbok head coach and addressed concerns over depth at lock and hooker, with a view to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
While the Springboks have continued on their countrywide World Cup trophy tour, director of rugby Erasmus has remained in the background, already planning towards a potential three-peat in 2027.
Erasmus will be without his right-hand man Jacques Nienaber, who has departed from his role as head coach to move to Ireland and join Leinster.
In his first interview since the Springboks won the World Cup in France, Erasmus told Sunday newspaper Rapport that Nienaber will leave a “huge” gap, but added that nobody is irreplaceable.
Erasmus is set to absorb the responsibilities as head coach for the foreseeable future – as he did when he returned to South Africa in 2018, coaching the Boks to their 2019 World Cup triumph.
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Concerns over key positions
In the interview, Erasmus raised his concern over South Africa’s depth in key positions, including lock and hooker.
Centurion lock Eben Etzebeth, who has been the Boks’ enforcer over the past decade, will be 37 years old in 2027, while the Munster duo of Jean Kleyn (34 in 2027) and RG Snyman (who will turn 32) will both also be in their 30’s, as will Franco Mostert (36).
“Eben is so athletic, but I don’t know if he still has a World Cup in him,” said Erasmus. “We may also be a bit thin at hooker.”
Bongi Mbonambi, who started the 2019 and 2023 World Cup finals, will be 36, while Malcolm Marx will be 32.
Erasmus name-checked Stormers wunderkind Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Sharks playmaker Curwin Bosch as players who could offer competition at flyhalf going forward, along with Manie Libbok.
This story was first published on sarugbymag.co.za. It is republished here with permission.