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Springbok coaches say back us or sack us

September 11, 2018
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Australia's Will Genia with the ball for the Wallabies is monstered by Pieter-Steph Du Toit of the Springboks during their rugby union test match in Brisbane, Australia, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Dave Kapernick)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Coaches of South Africa’s rugby team have challenged their bosses to support their long-term vision in the country or sack them.

Head coach Rassie Erasmus first raised the issue when he suggested he might be removed from his position if the Springboks lose to the All Blacks in a Rugby Championship test on Saturday at Wellington.

The South African team has lost three of its last four tests and Erasmus said history showed there is no security of tenure for Springboks coaches who fail to meet expectations.

Erasmus is contracted for six years, through the next two World Cups, and said he is working on the long-term goal of building a team which can succeed at those tournaments. But he suggested South African rugby bosses are more focused on short-term results and he said a loss on Saturday might become part of a high attrition rate among Springboks coach.

Six coaches have guided South Africa through the last four World Cup cycles and Erasmus said he might be removed if the Springboks lose to the All Blacks.

South Africa is in second place in the Rugby Championship, nine points behind leading New Zealand.

“If we can beat the All Blacks here then everybody will think we have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup next year, and if we do really well here people will say there’s growth,” Erasmus said.

“But if we do really bad here, then I will probably not be in the seat for the next couple of matches and someone else will probably be here.”

Erasmus is also South Africa’s director of rugby and, as such, is technically his own boss. But he said that would not be enough to save him if the team’s performance is deemed unacceptable.

“If you follow South African rugby, the six-year contract means nothing if you’re not performing,” he said. “The only thing a six-year contract tells me is not to think about next week. Think about the World Cup and the 2023 World Cup as well.”

Erasmus has been supported by his assistant Matt Proudfoot, who said he shared the head coach’s long-term vision.

“Rassie has made it very clear that if we don’t get the transformation right, if we don’t get the squad right to be competitive at the World Cup it doesn’t matter what we do,” Proudfoot said Tuesday. “Bring a squad together that could win an individual game isn’t what it’s about for us.

“We realize as coaches and management, and this is driven by Rassie, that if we have to get fired for an individual series loss or losses then so be it.”

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