The Rugby Football Union (RFU) described reports linking Rassie Erasmus with the England job as "100 per cent inaccurate", insisting no approach has been made for the South African to replace head coach Eddie Jones.

Speculation emerged from South Africa that England were lining up Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks coach Erasmus to succeed Jones.

Erasmus, who reverted back to his position as director of rugby after overseeing South Africa's victory over England in Japan last November, attended Saturday's Six Nations clash between Jones' side and Scotland at Murrayfield.

However, the RFU distanced itself from speculation after England boss Jones ended a run of back-to-back defeats.

"The reports are 100 per cent inaccurate. There has been no meeting. There have been no talks whatsoever about any position at the RFU," said RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney.

Jones and England kick-started their Six Nations campaign with a 13-6 win over rivals Scotland in Edinburgh.

England now have blockbuster clashes looming against Ireland and Wales in Europe's annual six-team Test competition, which could be in line for change.

South Africa are reportedly in line to join the Six Nations after the 2023 World Cup, but Jones is against the proposal.

"It's called the greatest rugby tournament in the world and I think it is," Jones said. "So why would you want to add other teams that are going to decrease the level of competition? I can only talk from experience.

"Super Rugby was the golden egg of rugby: 12 teams, brilliant, competitive. As soon as it expanded it lost its allure. You want the best teams playing against each other.

"There's something about the Six Nations – because of the history of the relationships between the nations – that makes it outstanding. There is a lot of meaning to a lot of people for a game like this."

South Africa have promoted Jacques Nienaber to replace Rassie Erasmus as head coach following their Rugby World Cup triumph.

Erasmus reverted back to his position of director of rugby after the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan last November and will now oversee his former assistant Nienaber.

Nienaber was named as Erasmus' successor on Friday in a South Africa statement that said the new coaching set-up is "heavily accented on continuity".

Mzwandile Stick retains his position as assistant coach, with Felix Jones now a European-based coaching consultant.

Deon Davids is the new forwards coach, while Bulls scrums coach Daan Human takes up the same role with the world champions and will also stay on with the Super Rugby franchise.

Davids replaces Matt Proudfoot, who joined England's coaching staff this month.

Nienaber described his delight at landing the top job.

"This is a massive honour and responsibility, but I think I have a good understanding of what it entails, especially in this new structure," the 47-year-old said.

"I've worked with Rassie in a coaching capacity for nearly two decades now and we have a very good idea of how each of us thinks, and as I'll still be reporting to him, our working relationship won't be changing.

"It's a big step up for me in terms of carrying the day-to-day leadership role and there'll be other adjustments, but in many ways, it will also be business as usual.

"We've built up a good culture over the past two years and we'll simply be looking to extend that."

Erasmus stated: "Jacques is highly experienced and has worked with the Springboks on three separate occasions now so knows exactly what the job is about.

"Jacques will be responsible for the Test match preparation and day-to-day team operations but, as the director of rugby, I will be with the team for the majority of the time and in the coaches' box with Jacques at matches."

South Africa have promoted Jacques Nienaber to replace Rassie Erasmus as South Africa head coach following their Rugby World Cup triumph.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says he was so stunned meeting Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after their Rugby World Cup triumph that he fell off his chair.

Klopp met up with Springboks stars including Kolisi as well as the country's cricket captain Faf du Plessis while visiting Cape Town during the most recent international break.

Kolisi recalled how Klopp spoke with each of the players in turn to congratulate them on their 32-12 defeat of England in the World Cup final in Yokohama on November 2.

The flanker admits meeting the "amazing" coach allowed him to understand why Liverpool players are thriving under his leadership.

Speaking to Sky Sports about South Africa's post-tournament celebrations, Kolisi said: "This was one of the highlights. He's such an amazing human being and I understand why the boys play so hard for him.

"He came and greeted every single person at the table; he came and spoke to me for 40 minutes.

"When I saw him, I fell off my chair! And everyone around me didn't understand. I've got huge respect for him."

The story of Kolisi's rise from an impoverished childhood in post-apartheid South Africa to winning the World Cup as captain of the national team captured huge interest before and during the tournament.

While he admits he never thought such an experience would be possible, the 28-year-old now wants to give back to his country to help those who continue to live in difficulty.

"I even said it to my team-mates: I never dreamed of this in a million years," he said. "But I'm glad that it happened. We all come from different backgrounds as team-mates and now kids can start dreaming about this moment, because we've done it.

"I'd love to hope [that we've changed perceptions] but there is a bit of work to do.

"I don't think I'll ever understand how big it is. It was really tough. Honestly, I wasn't in the worst of circumstances. People are in far worse circumstances. But I had love, support and time given to me by the people that raised me.

"I know we're all celebrating the story, and it's amazing, but kids shouldn't have to go through that. That's why I'm trying to work as hard as I can with some of my team-mates to give back to as many as we can.

"If I can make a difference in somebody else's life… that's the stuff that you want to be remembered for. I knew how much it could mean if we could win, for us as individuals, for the team and for the country."

Kolisi believes director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was a critical part of the Springboks' success, even down to his message before the final about the importance of doing their country proud.

"He's a special human being – I've learned so much from him," Kolisi added. "I've known him since I was a little kid. He's backed me from the beginning. He had a great plan and we all bought into it.

"That's what he told us [that rugby is a privilege] before we warmed up for the final. We know what pressure is: someone dying, something happened to one of your family members or friends, but we had the privilege of putting smiles on people's faces who are going through all that pressure.

"That's what he made us understand before we stepped on that field. We weren't playing for ourselves anymore; we were playing for a nation. Without even knowing it, we touched so many people. When we walked on that field, we knew what we had to do.

"I didn't have to speak – coach spoke, that was it. If that wasn't going to make you ready for the game, you were never going to be ready."

Siya Kolisi was left "humbled and overawed" by the incredible reception South Africa received on their return from winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The Springboks made their way home on Tuesday and arrived to remarkable scenes at a Johannesburg airport, where thousands of fans gathered to celebrate their triumph.

It was a lot for captain Kolisi to take in and he thanked the nation for getting behind his side, who claimed glory by thrashing England 32-12 in the final.

"In Japan, we got a glimpse of the support back home, but this reception is something else – we can't begin to thank everyone for backing us throughout this journey," said Kolisi.

"We did this for all South Africans – ordinary people who work tirelessly all day long to care for their families and friends and ultimately make our wonderful country an even better place.

"Winning the World Cup on foreign soil was very special – and arriving home to this wonderful support is the cherry on top. We are tired but grateful, humbled and overawed – thank you."

Head coach Rassie Erasmus, who won the tactical battle of wits against opposite number Eddie Jones in Yokohama, echoed Kolisi's sentiments ahead of a trophy tour that begins in Gauteng on Thursday.

"We brought the Webb Ellis Cup home for all South Africans and we really wish we could go everywhere to thank our supporters, but unfortunately logistics and time constraints doesn't allow for that to happen this time," said Erasmus.

"I would like to agree with Siya – the support here at the airport made all the hard work and sacrifices over the last two months worth it. Thank you to everyone who came out to greet us."

Pieter-Steph du Toit has won World Rugby's Player of the Year award and Rassie Erasmus took the Coach of the Year accolade, a day after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup.

Du Toit played a huge part in the Springboks becoming the first team to win the Rugby Championship and lift the Webb Ellis Cup in the same year.

The lock was presented with the gong on Sunday after being shortlisted along with team-mate Cheslin Kolbe, England flanker Tom Curry, Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, New Zealand flanker Ardie Savea and United States hooker Joe Taufete'e.

Erasmus was named the best coach in the world after working wonders in a short space of time for the newly-crowned world champions, having only taken over in March 2018.

Former Springbok player Erasmus said: "As everybody knows I'm finishing up as head coach. I will definitely be involved as director of rugby. We are all trying to be like the All Blacks, we all know what New Zealand has done over the last 12 years - they have set the bar right up there.

"We have enjoyed the last 24 hours and we are going to enjoy the next two weeks and then start working and try to be like New Zealand, be consistent and stay number one or two in the world."

South Africa inevitably claimed the World Rugby Team of the Year award after matching the All Blacks' tally of three World Cup triumphs.

England centre Emily Scarratt received the women's World Player of the Year award at the ceremony in Tokyo.

South Africa were crowned champions at the end of an enthralling Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The tournament in Japan proved a huge success, with packed-out venues and fervent support from a nation that has embraced the sport.

For their part, the hosts produced one of the great upsets by beating number-one ranked Ireland in the pool phase.

But it was the Springboks, having ended Japan's run at the quarter-final stage, who lifted the trophy after thrashing England 32-12 in Yokohama.

Here, we take a look back at the top Opta facts from six memorable weeks.

- South Africa are the only side to boast a 100 per cent win rate in Rugby World Cup finals, winning on each of their three such appearances.

- The Springboks scored two tries in the final against England, the first time they had ever crossed for a try in a Rugby World Cup final. They are still yet to concede one in the showpiece event.

- Japan reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, becoming the first Asian nation to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament. 

- Ireland suffered a seventh Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat. They have never made it past the last eight; no side has endured as many losses at that stage of the tournament.

- New Zealand have been knocked out before the Rugby World Cup final on five occasions, however only once before has the side who eliminated the All Blacks before the final gone on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup (Australia in 1991). 

- The All Blacks had won 18 games in a row at the Rugby World Cup before their semi-final defeat to England, the longest winning run in the history of the tournament.

- Scotland became the first side to 'nil' their opponents in back-to-back Rugby World Cup games, keeping both Samoa and Russia scoreless in consecutive matches. 

- There were eight red cards shown at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, at least twice as many as any other edition of the tournament (four in 1995 and 1999).

- Jake Polledri beat 27 defenders in the pool stage for Italy, the most ever recorded by a forward in an entire edition of the Rugby World Cup (Buck Shelford 22 for New Zealand in 1987), despite playing just 196 minutes. 

- Against Canada, South Africa's Cobus Reinach scored the earliest hat-trick ever in a Rugby World Cup match, crossing for his third try in the 21st minute.

After leading South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory, Rassie Erasmus claimed he was ready to resign as the Springboks' coach had they not beaten New Zealand in Wellington last year.

South Africa recorded an emphatic 32-12 victory over England to secure a record-equalling third world title in Yokohama.

In a post-match news conference, Erasmus was asked about the importance of his side's 36-34 Rugby Championship win over New Zealand in September 2018, which was widely seen as a crucial, morale-boosting triumph.

"Prior to that one we lost to Australia and Argentina, and I clearly can remember I said 'listen, if we don't win that one I'm definitely willing to resign because I've never in my coaching career lost three games in a row at any level'," revealed Erasmus.

"I thought if I lose three games in a row, I don't deserve to be the Springbok coach. We had a great chat and I said if I am preaching that we must be consistent and give people hope by the way we're playing ... but we're losing to Argentina and Australia and now we lose three in a row, then I'm out of here.

"We had that honest chat and then the boys went and beat New Zealand in Wellington. So it was pretty important, otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here."

Erasmus, who will stay on as South Africa's director of rugby but relinquish head coaching duties, hopes the Boks can build on their World Cup win with a period of sustained success.

"When I took over, it was 618 days to the World Cup and we planned to the World Cup, to try and win the World Cup. I think it's now 614 days to the British and Irish Lions and we'll start planning now for the British and Irish Lions," he added.

"Obviously we have the Rugby Championship next year and Super Rugby and all the normal local competitions, but I think it's 614 days or close to that before the British and Irish Lions land in South Africa, so we'll start planning for that now.

"What we are trying to do is be consistent now. The thing we were terrible at in 2018, we were up and down. This year, we've played 12 games and we've lost one, so we're getting that consistency back.

"And yes, we've got the World Cup here, but going into next year, if you lose the first Test match people forget about the World Cup.

"So we want to get consistency now and work towards the British and Irish Lions, the next World Cup and so on."

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus provided an inspirational insight into how a sense of perspective helped his side handle pressure on their way to Rugby World Cup glory.

The Springboks came into the final as underdogs but overpowered England to secure a comprehensive 32-12 win and earn a record-equalling third world title.

In the lead-up to Saturday's decider in Yokohama, much focus centred on what it would mean for Boks skipper Siya Kolisi - the first black captain of his country - to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup aloft.

Asked how South Africa kept their composure despite knowing the potential impact a victory could make, Erasmus delivered a detailed and moving response.

"This was my first World Cup as a coach and I think actually the first All Black game [a pool match South Africa lost 23-13] was a great test run for us in terms of handling pressure," he said.

"We were terrible that week, the way we were tense and talking about things. The whole week was just a terrible build-up for that pool game and that taught us a lot about how to handle the quarter-final, semi-final and so on. But overall, we started talking about what pressure is.

"In South Africa, pressure is not having a job. Pressure is one of your close relatives being murdered. In South Africa there is a lot of problems, which is pressure, and we started talking about things like that. And rugby shouldn't be something that creates pressure. Rugby should be something that creates hope.

"We started talking about how we've got a privilege of giving people hope, not a burden of giving people hope. But hope is not talking about hope and saying you've got hope and tweeting a beautiful tweet and things like that. Hope is when you play well and people watch the game on the Saturday ... and feel good afterwards.

"No matter your political differences or religious differences or whatever, for those 80 minutes you agree with a lot of things when you normally disagree. We just started believing in that and saying that is not our responsibility, that's our privilege to try and fix those things.

"And the moment you see it that way, it becomes a hell of a privilege and you start working towards that. I think that is the way we tackled this whole World Cup campaign. I hope that answers your question."

Erasmus also highlighted the incredible journey of Kolisi, who grew up in deep poverty and watched South Africa's 2007 World Cup win in a township tavern as he did not have a TV at home.

Asked to describe Kolisi, Erasmus said: "It's easy to talk about going through hard times and struggling to get opportunities where other people do, but I think it's tough to tell people that there were days when I didn't have food, there were days when I didn't have a lift to go to school, or I couldn't go to school or I didn't have shoes to wear.

"The moment you hear that a lot, you almost get used to that, as a team-mate or as a rugby supporter or anybody, maybe you guys sitting here. Maybe you hear that a lot.

"But when you sit down and you think about it clearly - that there was a stage when Siya went through stuff like that, where he didn't physically have food, or he didn't have shoes to wear or he couldn't get to school. And then you think here he sits as a captain and he led South Africa to hold this cup.

"I think that should sum up what Siya is."

The Rugby World Cup final is upon us. England and South Africa will face off in Yokohama on Saturday, with the winner lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

Both sides have enjoyed fantastic runs to this stage, with England winning every match they have played at the finals and dominating two-time defending champions New Zealand in the last four.

The Springboks were beaten by the All Blacks in their opening match but have recovered in impressive fashion, closing on a third title.

With the help of Opta data, we look at the key numbers ahead of what promises to be an enthralling final between two worthy winners.
 

2 - England have won back-to-back Tests against South Africa, but their record against the Springboks had previously been nothing to shout about. They managed just one victory in their prior 15 meetings.

33 - Eddie Jones' team will need to be at it from the off on Saturday. South Africa having gone on to win 33 of their 35 World Cup matches in which they have led at the break.

89 - Owen Farrell needs just 11 points to become the second player to reach 100 World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson, who accumulated 277.

0 - South Africa won the previous two World Cup finals they appeared in, but both victories came without either side scoring a try.

1 - If England beat Rassie Erasmus' side, they will become the first team to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in a single World Cup campaign.

407 - Springbok Damian de Allende is one of only three players to have played more minutes at this tournament than England duo Elliot Daly and Tom Curry, who have each clocked up 400.

3 - The sides have previously met four times in the World Cup, with South Africa coming out on top in three of those matches. Their most recent World Cup meeting came in the 2007 final, which the Springboks won 15-6.

140 - Handre Pollard has scored more points at a World Cup than any other South Africa player, although he is yet to score a try in the competition.

50 - Siya Kolisi is set to earn his 50th Test cap and his 20th as Springboks captain.

98 - South Africa have the best lineout success rate of any side at this World Cup, having only lost one, which came in their semi-final win over Wales.

4 - This will be England's fourth appearance in the final, a joint record alongside Australia and the All Blacks.

27 - Jonny May needs one more try to equal Jason Robinson on 28 for England, the joint-fifth most for England. He has four in six appearances against the Springboks.

Rassie Erasmus has called on South Africa to revive the spirit of 1995 and 2007 and help bring about vital change in their country by landing the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks coach sends his team out to tackle marginal favourites England in Saturday's final in Yokohama, with a black captain in Siya Kolisi leading the reigning kings of the Rugby Championship.

Erasmus admitted he was "naive" to think the appointment of Kolisi as South Africa's first black rugby union captain was not majorly significant.

But he is not blind to the fact a South African triumph in rugby's biggest match could lift the nation in the way their predecessors also achieved.

South Africa's 1995 World Cup win will always be remembered for Nelson Mandela, the political prisoner who became president in the early post-apartheid years, handing over the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar.

Should Kolisi lift the Webb Ellis Cup, it would be another landmark moment in South Africa's history.

Looking back to the 1995 triumph, Erasmus said: "We know what impact that had for our country.

"We do have some challenges in our country in different levels and different avenues, but rugby is one of the things that for a few minutes - and sometimes when we win for a few hours, days and months - people forget about their disagreements and stop disagreeing for a while and agree.

"I think what we experienced from 2007 and 1995 is that you can fix a lot of things in that time. In South Africa we need that. That is a maximum motivation for us on Saturday.

"We're trying to win for South Africa but not just because of our supporters but because our country has a lot of things we want to fix and we want to help fix that."

Kolisi emerged from a tough upbringing in a township close to Port Elizabeth to lead his country, yet Erasmus, who will step down as coach after the final, missed what appeared obvious to others when making the captaincy appointment.

"I was a bit naive in thinking this would be such a massive thing with him being captain," Erasmus said. "I picked Siya because he was the best-performing Super Rugby captain [for the Stormers]. It caught us both off guard and his game suffered a bit in the first few games."

Injuries have impeded Kolisi, who will win his 50th cap on Saturday, but Erasmus said: "I think he's fighting fit to have a good final."

England are not worrying about life at home as they seek a second World Cup triumph, after the 2003 final win over Australia in Sydney.

Coach Eddie Jones believes his team are showing a "steeliness" about them that bodes well, and despite admitting there is some nervousness in the camp, the former Japan boss says there is also "a nice relaxed feeling".

"We've spent four years getting ready for this occasion," Jones said on Thursday.

He knows South Africa well - his Japan side stunned them at the 2015 World Cup - and says the Springboks are just as clued up on England's strengths and weaknesses.

"The way the game is at the moment and the amount of games international teams play, you know each other pretty well," Jones said.

"They'll know our players, we know their players. We've got a pretty good idea of how they'll play and they'll have a pretty good idea of how we play.

"So it's more about the fact you've got to be at your best on the day rather than familiarity now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England - George Ford

Percy Montgomery kicked South Africa to glory in the 2007 final, slotting over four penalties, and there is a suspicion it could come down to precision from the tee again on Saturday. Ford booted four successful penalties against New Zealand in the semi-finals, and England cannot afford to leave points out on the pitch with the trophy in their sights. Ford, and Owen Farrell if called upon, have the big-game credentials to get the job done.

South Africa - Cheslin Kolbe

Flying wing Kolbe missed the semi-final against Wales with an ankle injury, but the Toulouse flyer is back for the big one. He poses a serious threat to England, bringing pace and panache to the party, and in a game that might be effectively settled by one flash of genius, Kolbe would feature high on any list of potential match-winners. As Farrell said on Thursday: "I think it's clear for everyone to see what kind of a threat he is."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- If England win, they will become the first side to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the same edition of the Rugby World Cup. Only Argentina have previously faced each of the traditional southern hemisphere giants at an edition of the World Cup, losing all three such matches in 2015.

- Both of South Africa's previous Rugby World Cup finals have been try-less affairs (15-12 v New Zealand in 1995, 15-6 v England in 2007).

- South Africa have the best lineout success rate (98 per cent) of any side in the tournament. They had a 100 per cent rate before losing one in their semi-final clash with Wales.

- Owen Farrell needs 11 points to become the second player to reach 100 Rugby World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson (277 points). He averages 10.3 points per game against South Africa (103 in 10 games).

- Manu Tuilagi has scored six tries this year, and no other player in Test rugby has scored as many in 2019 while playing at centre. He has never scored in four previous matches against South Africa, however.

- Makazole Mapimpi already has 13 tries in 13 caps for South Africa, including nine in his last seven appearances.

Rassie Erasmus will not continue as South Africa coach after the Rugby World Cup final showdown with England, he has confirmed.

The Springboks - who are hunting their third world title - face Eddie Jones' side in Yokohama on Saturday, after respective semi-final victories over Wales and New Zealand.

Erasmus has been working in the dual role of coach and director of rugby since early 2018, but he suggested in December last year he would step down from the former position following the World Cup.

Despite overseeing a hugely successful year in which South Africa won the Rugby Championship and reached the World Cup final in Japan, Erasmus' stance on his future has not altered.

The 47-year-old is set to continue in his directorial post, however.

"It's probably my last Test match. It is my last Test match of being head coach," Erasmus told reporters on Thursday. "It's an emotional one. I didn't think 25 Tests would go that quickly.

"When I came back from Munster, I thought it would be more about focusing on my family as well as thinking more strategically in terms of helping the schoolboys, helping the sevens, and helping the Bok coach.

"When you become the Bok coach, you become more hands-on, your adrenaline starts pumping and you really become part of it. It's wonderful to be here. It's sad that there are only three days and then it's all over."

Erasmus says his time as coach has given him greater optimism for rugby in South Africa going forwards, as the Springboks bid to become the first team to do the Rugby Championship-World Cup double.

"I will still be heavily involved whatever way we go in terms of the next Bok coach. I must say, just being the coach gave me such hope again for South African rugby," he added.

"Two years ago, everybody was talking about this hope thing, but I was like, 'Let's just focus on the rugby'. I've changed my mind. If we play with passion and people see it, it can help them forget about their problems.

"We have to use this platform. No matter what happens on Saturday, we have to use what we've built to take us forward in the next six or seven years.

"The only failure would be not pitching up and giving it absolutely everything. We said that when we win, people will start supporting us again, talking about us again, helping us with team selections and so on.

"We want that criticism. That's when you know South Africans care again. We knew it would be a process and that we would have to take some risks along the road to get where we wanted to go. We knew that the expectations would grow."

Rugby World Cup finalists England and South Africa have been joined by New Zealand, Wales and Japan in World Rugby's Team of the Year nominations for 2019.

All four teams who reached the semi-finals of the showpiece tournament in Japan have been rewarded for their efforts, with the respective coaches also up for the Coach of the Year award.

Eddie Jones, Rassie Erasmus, Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland are on the list, along with Jamie Joseph, who guided Japan to their first-ever World Cup knockout stage.

The hosts were eventually defeated by South Africa, with Erasmus then guiding Rugby Championship winners the Springboks to a 19-16 win over Wales, who won the Six Nations Grand Slam under outgoing coach Gatland.

New Zealand and Hansen are both in the running, despite the All Blacks seeing their long reigns both at the top of the rankings and as world champions ended.

Ireland dominated the 2018 awards, winning the Team of the Year accolade as coach Joe Schmidt and player Johnny Sexton were recognised for their individual efforts.

Their failure to advance beyond the World Cup quarter-finals, beaten by New Zealand, means neither the team nor Schmidt are nominated this time.

The 2019 Player of the Year nominations are still to be announced, before the awards are handed out in Tokyo on Sunday.

Earlier in the week, World Rugby announced Joe Cokanasiga (England), Herschel Jantjies (South Africa) and Romain Ntamack (France) are up for the Breakthrough Player of the Year gong.

Rugby World Cup scores from Charles Ollivon (France), TJ Perenara (New Zealand) and Cobus Reinach (South Africa) are bidding alongside Italy captain Sergio Parisse's Test effort for the Try of the Year.

When Rassie Erasmus took over as South Africa head coach just a year and a half before the Rugby World Cup, the former Springbok knew he had taken on a "huge task".

Erasmus already had more than enough on his plate as South Africa's director of rugby, a role with a wide-ranging remit.

The 47-year-old was still getting his feet under the table in that job when Allister Coetzee's turbulent reign as head coach was brought to an end in February 2018.

Erasmus agreed to the challenge of turning around the fortunes of a Springboks side who had won only 11 of Coetzee's 25 games in charge and dropped to sixth in the world rankings.

"It is a huge task to coach the Springboks and I am very privileged," Erasmus said.

"I really believe we have the players and the rugby IP [intellectual property] to turn things around and to mount a serious challenge at next year's Rugby World Cup."

Even the most optimistic fans of the Springboks might have raised eyebrows over such positive comments from the new head coach.

Yet the potential was there to see in a 2-1 home Test series defeat of England, led by Siya Kolisi after he was named as South Africa's first black captain.

A shock defeat of New Zealand followed last September and South Africa dethroned the All Blacks to win the Rugby Championship just a month before facing Steve Hansen's side in their first match of the World Cup.

Although Steve Hansen's two-time defending champions won that World Cup opener at International Stadium Yokohama almost six weeks ago, it is the Springboks who will contest the final with England at the same venue on Saturday.

Cheslin Kolbe has established himself as one of the most lethal wings in the world after being handed a debut last September, while Faf de Klerk is among the recalled players to have thrived under Erasmus after the 30-cap eligibility rule for overseas-based stars was scrapped.

Erasmus has turned South Africa into an uncompromising, well-drilled side, possessing relentless and brutal physicality, with explosive backs and busy scrum-half De Klerk pulling the strings.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi said: "Rassie has made a massive difference. That difference has not just been to the South Africa team because his decisions have affected the whole nation.

"He is a coach who has an honest opinion about every player and he is not someone who does things behind closed doors but does it openly and everyone knows about it.

"Players have respect for someone who is honest and open and says what he is looking for. It gives you more freedom to go out there and express yourself. He does not put you in a box and that has been one of his outstanding features."

Erasmus will relinquish his head coach duties after the showdown with England this weekend and, regardless of the outcome, he has lifted the gloom and made a proud rugby nation a major force once again.

Cheslin Kolbe will return from an ankle injury for South Africa's Rugby World Cup final against England on Saturday.

Livewire wing Kolbe missed South Africa's semi-final win over Wales due to injury he tweaked in the quarter-final victory against hosts Japan.

However, Kolbe is back in the starting XV for the blockbuster Yokohama showdown in a big boost for 2007 world champions the Springboks.

Kolbe – who missed the pool match against Canada – comes in for stand-in Sbu Noksi as South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus' sole change to his side.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi will earn his 50th Test cap, with South Africa seeking their second World Cup title, having trumped England in the final 12 years ago.

 

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn.

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