Will the Boks get Stick after Nienaber?
OPINION: The dust had hardly settled on the shock announcement of Jacques Nienaber’s impending departure and the focus shifted to his possible successor.
Nienaber revealed at the weekend he was joining the Irish province Leinster after the World Cup in France – which gets underway on September 8 and concludes with the Final in Paris on October 28.
Speculation will continue about his successor until the South African Rugby Union makes a formal announcement.
However, there are a couple of pointers in SARU’s statement that make it clear that ‘continuity’ will again be a factor.
The most significant is the fact that Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus will not depart with his good friend Nienaber.
And Rassie, as he is affectionately known, will be involved in the process of deciding who the new coach will be.
That puts two of Nienaber’s assistants – skills coach Mzwandile Stick and forwards coach Deon Davids – at the front of the starting grid.
Erasmus has been grooming Stick since he took over in 2018.
Stick, 38, first joined the national coaching set-up under Allister Coetzee in 2016, but seemed to have fallen out of favour during a tumultuous two-year period that saw the Boks barely reach a 40 percent win ratio.
He was demoted to the Baby Boks in 2017.
Erasmus wasted no time in bringing him back to the Bok senior set-up, with ‘special skills’ as his focus.
Davids, 55, is another who has been ‘mentored’ by Erasmus.
He graduated to the Bok set-up after his apprenticeship as head coach of the Southern Kings, firstly in Super Rugby and then in the Pro14.
The future of scrum coach Daan Human is uncertain at this stage, but for continuity’s sake, it would be key to keep him on.
Felix Jones, the other assistant coach, has already announced that he will join England’s coaching team after the World Cup.
There are some alternatives outside the current set-up, unlikely as it may seem.
Domestically there are Stormers coach John Dobson and Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White – both with success on the domestic and international stages.
South African coaches abroad that may come into the frame include former Lions coach Johan Ackermann (currently in Japan) and Bath coach Johann van Graan, a former Bok assistant.
However, Stick and Davids are the favourites – even at this early stage.