FOLLOWING their World Cup triumph, South Africa faces an uncertain future as they wait for a new coach to be appointed while many of the stalwarts within the squad are coming to the end of their test careers.
Without a match for the next seven months, there is plenty of time to get things sorted for the side that won the Rugby World Cup on Saturday by squeezing past New Zealand 12-11 in the final at the Stade de France.
First to be settled is what happens with Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, who is seen as the maverick genius behind the country’s successive World Cup triumphs.
He was coach in 2019 when they won in Japan but tweaked his role thereafter, and relinquished the coaching post to his long-time lieutenant Jacques Nienaber.
Nienaber is leaving to join the staff at Irish province Leinster while former Irish international Felix Jones, another integral part of the South African coaching team, becomes an assistant coach under Steve Borthwick with England.
Both have been lauded for their analytical work and attention to detail and are likely to be sorely missed.
It is expected that 37-year-old Duane Vermeulen, who probably played his last game in Saturday’s final, will join the staff, having already spent time in the coach’s box during the tournament in France.
None of the winning squad have spoken of quitting, either the game overall or their international careers, but the intensity of the World Cup campaign takes a toll as the 31-year-old centre Damian de Allende explained when asked whether he would continue with the Boks.
“I would love to say yes but at the moment I have to take it year by year,” he said after Saturday’s victory.
“I’m getting a little bit older, my body is taking a bit longer to recover. It was tough this week and last week.”
Of the 35 players that South Africa used at this World Cup, 20 are aged 30 or older and many are expected to have come to the end of their test careers, as a new four-year cycle begins ahead of the next World Cup in Australia in 2027.
South Africa next play a home series against Ireland in mid-year, then the annual Rugby Championship with Argentina, Australia and New Zealand and will end the year on tour to Europe, including a test at Twickenham against England in mid-November.