Rassie Erasmus will step back into the unrelenting glare of the media spotlight when the woeful Stormers play their final Australasian tour match against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Speculation has been rife for sometime now that Erasmus, hailed as the saviour of Stormers rugby just under two years ago, is on way out and a fifth successive defeat on Friday may well see him finally throw up his arms in exasperation.
Apart from when the Stormers’ recorded a 56-18 rout of the Lions at Newlands, Erasmus has been asked to explain the team’s poor performances week in and week out. Even when the Stormers scored their only other win this season – the defeated Reds side managed to score four tries against them, Erasmus’ standing as the head coach took a battering.
SAPA reports that Erasmus has often enough this season said he’ll be happy to step down if there is a better coach to head up the Stormers’ Super campaign.
However, Erasmus’ bosses at Newlands have recently declared the beleaguered coach’s position was not under threat, but then they too will be reeling under the weight of expectation as disgruntled fans stay away from Newlands when the Stormers return in just over a week’s time.
Former Springbok coach Jake White’s name has been linked with the Stormers in recent times, even though Erasmus’ contract still has one year to run. White is not a favourite with many of the bigwigs at Newlands and it is therefore unlikely he’ll be making the move there.
Given the team’s 2009 record, it seems Erasmus is unable to arrest the slide from grace and the playing pattern and tactically deficient kicking, have dumbfounded the critics, many of whom rated the Newlands-based team as 2009 play-off candidates in pre-season predictions.
But the fact the team has now been relieved of the pressure of making the play-offs given its lowly position, many players may be inspired to enhance their claims for Springbok selection.
And since quite a few contracts will expire at the end of the season, the younger and untried players may just use the rest of the season to increase their prospects for future stints with the Stormers.
Erasmus has seen a steady trail of players coming and going since the squad set foot in Australasia. Centre Jean de Villiers and prop Brian Mujati have just returned to Cape Town, and they have been preceded by fullback Percy Montgomery, flank Francois Louw and lock Adriaan Fondse.
Tiger Bax, a young University of Cape Town utility back, has flown over to bolster the backline reserves, and in recent weeks wing Wylie Human, flank Pieter Louw, lock Andries Bekker and prop Bok Harris have all made the trip to various Super 14 regions in the Antipodes.
Whatever team Erasmus decides on, at least on paper, will be capable of holding their own. There will be quite a few players among the backs and forwards who will be serious contenders for the next Springbok squad.
The Stormers can rightly fancy their chances against the Highlanders who are only two places above them in 10th position on the Super 14 ladder.
The Highlanders pack is big and one of the strongest in the competition, and that will be cause for concern for the Stormers in the build-up to the match.
Last week the Stormers were reduced to ‘Breezers’ as they were blown away 34 – 11 by the Hurricanes, after they were forced to play most of the match without captain De Villiers who retired from the action with an early injury.Tweet