Increasingly pressured Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus has admitted that a heavy defeat to New Zealand at Westpac Stadium here on Saturday could put his job on the line.
Speaking after the Boks’ arrival in Wellington on Monday ahead of the showdown against the All Blacks‚ Erasmus conceded that the pressure would mount on him if his charges perform poorly against a side that has only lost one Test match at home since 2009.
“Yes‚ I do think so‚” he responded when asked if an embarrassing defeat to the New Zealanders would put his regime under scrutiny.
Erasmus signed a six-year contract as Bok coach in the beginning of the year and it is supposed to carry him through two World Cups.
But given that the Boks take on the all-conquering All Blacks on the back of successive defeats to Argentina and Australia‚ the South Africa coach is well aware that there is a lot of unhappiness back home.
Facing the world's best rugby side away from home could not have come at a worse time for Erasmus as South Africans will remember that the Boks suffered a record 57-0 drubbing to the hosts in Albany last time the last time they were in New Zealand.
“Maybe I will not be fired immediately but pressure will definitely mount‚" a candid Erasmus said.
"I will probably not be in the seat in the next couple of matches and somebody else will be here.
“For me to survive is very important and if we can beat the All Blacks here‚ everyone will think that there is growth and we have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup next year.
"But‚ if we do badly‚ I can tell you it will be different story.”
Erasmus‚ however‚ insisted that he is still the right man to take the Springboks back to the top.
But he added that he needs more time from the fans to get things right.
“I want South Africa to go back to where they were in the past‚" he said.
"I want to see New Zealand do their Haka intimidation and think we are a real threat and feel they are going to have a tough test and struggle to beat us.
"I love the Boks‚ I played 39 times for them and I want us to be back at the top.”
Part of his plan to take the Boks to the top is giving the younger players experience so that they can go to the World Cup in Japan next year confident and ready to take on the world.
“I want to see us growth and us being contenders at the World Cup‚ and that is what this championship is all about‚" he said.
"If you say it is a young team and it is developing‚ people will say it is excuses and I can’t say that.
"What I am saying is that we are not in a building phase.
"We are adapting a different mindset which is not only about worrying about the next Test match but the future of South African rugby.
"That is the World Cup‚ becoming one of the top ranked teams in the world and building a team that is representative of the country.
“We must decide whether we are going to pick guys who have enough Test caps and narrowly lose by five or six points to Australia and New Zealand away from home or pick new faces and get a hiding.
"If we pick new faces‚ those guys will know how it feels to play against Australia and New Zealand away from home and next time when they come back here they will know how it feels.”