Rugby News: Rassie eyes RWC history after unveiling new Boks coaching team, Force add another Kiwi, French Six Nations blow
Rassie Erasmus will coach champions South Africa to the 2027 Rugby World Cup, with former Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery added to the technical team as defence coach and ex-New Zealand playmaker Tony Brown signed to sharpen the attack.
Erasmus returns as head coach after four years, a role he held when they lifted the World Cup trophy in 2019, before moving to director of rugby as they retained their title in France last year.
The 51-year-old has courted controversy with his comments on match officials, especially on social media. He was banned for two months by World Rugby in 2021 for “attacking, disparaging and/or denigrating the game and match officials”.
The following year he was given another ban for two matches for social media criticism of referee Wayne Barnes.
Erasmus takes over the position vacated by Jacques Nienaber, who has joined Irish side Leinster. Highly-prized attack coach Felix Jones has also left to link up with Steve Borthwick’s England.
Flannery won 41 caps for Ireland before injury cut short his playing career. He had been working as assistant coach at English side Harlequins.
Brown won 18 caps with the All Blacks and was assistant coach with Japan at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups. He has also coached Super Rugby side Otago Highlanders and previously played in South Africa for the Stormers and Sharks.
“The main difference between the last four years and this season is that I will be more hands-on at the field sessions,” Erasmus said in a statement from SA Rugby on Tuesday.
“In my role as Director of Rugby I continued to oversee the team structures and strategy in conjunction with Jacques and the other coaches, so it should be an easy transition back into the head coach role.
“With the coaching team finalised, we can now focus on planning for the season and the next few years.”
Former referee Jaco Peyper, who retired last month, will join the team management to assist with interpreting the laws of the game.
FORCE SIGN FORMER CRUSADERS SUPER RUGBY CHAMPION
Former Crusaders hooker Ben Funnell has been handed the chance to add a final chapter to his Super Rugby career after signing with the Western Force.
Funnell played 89 Super games for the Crusaders between 2011 to 2019, which included a major role in their charge to the 2017 crown.
The 33-year-old scored five tries in 16 games in that title-winning campaign, and he more recently played 11 of 12 games for Canterbury in their run to the 2023 National Provincial Championship semi-finals.
Funnell will add experience and depth to the Force’s hooking options, which already include three-cap Wallaby Feleti Kaitu’u and Tom Horton.
“The hooker position is one we’re trying to build depth in,” Force coach Simon Cron said.
“We’ve got some exciting talent in that position in our (academy) who we think will be great in the future.
“But Ben’s recruitment provides someone in the interim who can add to the group and the culture with his knowledge and experience.”
Funnell wasn’t sure whether he’d get the chance to play Super Rugby again after leaving the Crusaders.
“I was just playing it by ear. I wasn’t too worried either way,” he said in Perth on Tuesday.
But when Cron came knocking, Funnell knew the Force would be a good fit.
“Definitely Simon Cron was an influence and talked me into it,” Funnell said.
“He spoke the same lingo as me. That was the attraction.
“When I say the same language, I think the way he wants to play the game is the way I understand it.”
Funnell arrived in Perth over the weekend and has already joined Force training, with a view to playing in Saturday’s pre-season trial game against the ACT Brumbies at Revo Fitness Stadium in Claremont.
Perth is expected to swelter through a top of 40C on Friday, 41C on Saturday and 40C on Sunday.
“It’s a different kind of heat here,” said Funnell, who hails from New Zealand.
“You can breathe alright, it’s dry. But I’ve never experienced 40 degrees.”
The Force posted a 21-19 trial win over the Reds in Queensland last week.
Their season begins on February 23 against the Hurricanes in Perth.
FRENCH STAR COPS BAN FOR DOUBLE YELLOW CARD
France lock Paul Willemse will miss the Six Nations games against Scotland and Italy after receiving a four-week suspension for his red card against Ireland.
Willemse was sent off following his second high hit of the night around the half-hour mark in France’s 38-17 loss to the Irish in their Six Nations opener in Marseille on Friday.
He will miss Saturday’s game against Scotland at Murrayfield as well France’s match at home to Italy on February 25.
“Mitigating factors were applied by the Committee reducing the six-week entry point by two weeks, resulting in a sanction of four weeks for this offence,” an independent disciplinary committee said on Tuesday.
Willemse was sin-binned after seven minutes when his shoulder connected with Andrew Porter’s head.
He received his second yellow card and was sent off for a high tackle on Caelan Doris before halftime.
He will be able to return for France’s game in Wales on March 10. They round off their campaign at home to England the following week.