With Springbok coach Peter de Villiers' contract coming to an end, we take a look at who could be the new coach in 2012....
De Villiers has made it clear that he intends to re-apply for the position, but the common consensus among most rugby enthusiasts around the world is that it is time for a new man to take over.
Some of the coaches mentioned as favourites for the position have said they will not be applying for the position. But with the job not advertised yet, don't read too much into such comments.
Here are some of the candidates for the position:
Peter de Villiers:
Despite a poor World Cup by South African standards, the man know in some quarters as "the Richard Pryor of rugby" has had some success during his tenure as Bok coach. After a shaky start at the helm, De Villiers guided the team to victory in the 2009 Tri-Nations tournament and a Series win over the British and Irish Lions in that same year. When De Villiers took over from Jake White he promised that the Springboks would play a more entertaining brand of rugby and for a brief period at the start of his reign... they did! However, the results were not forthcoming and after the team's senior players told him they would prefer the more conservative approach which they were used to, he reverted to the style which the Boks played under White.
The former All Blacks mentor has revolutionised the game in South Africa since taking over at the Lions last year. When he started his spell with the Johannesburg-based Union, Mitchell asked for patience from the Lions hierarchy and supporters while he set out on his plan to take them back to the top of the rugby tree in South Africa. He's succeeded in that task by winning the Currie Cup and done it in style by allowing his side to play an attractive brand of attacking rugby. He also showed faith in several young players and if he is appointed, Mitchell will not be afraid to blood youngsters at international level.
As a former Springbok, Erasmus will be a popular choice with supporters and he's won the Currie Cup when he was head coach of the Cheetahs. Erasmus possesses an astute rugby brain and has the ability to get the best out of the players. Also a top notch expert and analyses of the game, few will argue that he would add value to the position. However, Erasmus is on record as saying that he does not want the job and would rather prefer a technical advisor's role like he had at the recent World Cup in New Zealand.
Being a former scrum-half in charge of a rugby team means it is inevitable that there will be comparisons with De Villiers. However, he is the complete opposite of PdV and unlike the manis an articluate speaker, who has had some success - although he has not won a significant trophy as head coach of Western Province and the Stormers. Coetzee was Jake White's assistant when the Springboks won the World Cup in 2007 and despite a lack of trophies, he has guided WP and the Stormers to Currie Cup and Super Rugby finals.
Another New Zealander who has had great success on the South African domestic scene with the Sharks. Plumtree has won the Currie Cup with the Durban-based side as head coach in 2008 and 2010. He was also the Sharks' assistant coach when they reached the 2007 Super Rugby final, which they lost narrowly to the Bulls. Before his stint with the Sharks, Plumtree also coached Welsh club Swansea and the Wellington Lions in New Zealand. Plumtree is tactically astute and under his guidance, Sharks players like Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel, Patrick Lambie and Lwazi Mvovo have become Springboks.
The man who was widely tipped to succeed Jake White has been off the radar since he missed out on the job to De Villiers in 2008. After resigning at the Bulls (after taking them to their first Super 14 title in 2007), the Pretoria-based team had even more success - winning the Currie Cup and two more Super Rugby titles under Frans Ludeke. Meyer also had a stint in the Premiership with the Leicester Tigers in 2008 but he returned to South Africa in 2009 to attend to family matters. After missing out on the job the last time, it remains to be seen if he will throw his name into the hat again. But his success at provincial and Super Rugby level can not be ignored when an appointment is made.
De Villiers' assistant has declared that he would be interested in the job and has won respect for the job he did with the Springbok forwards over the past four seasons. Gold has experience as a head coach with London Irish and Western Province but would be an outsider for the Bok position as he has not been in charge of a team in recent years.
Like Gold, Venter would be a dark horse for the position. Venter's talents as a coach seem to be under-utilised in South Africa but he was at the forefront of Saracens' success in the Aviva Premiership in 2011 when he was their director of rugby. A passionate individual, Venter has an analytical mind but what could count against him is that he has not coached at a high level in South Africa.
John Mitchell's success in turning the Lions from also-rans into Currie Cup champions makes him the ideal man for the job. It must not be forgotten that he also coached the All Blacks from 2001 to 2003 and despite losing his job after they were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, he had an 82 per cent winning record in charge of the men in black. Mitchell is an innovative coach who will bring some excitement back into the dour South African style of play. It would certainly be a turn-up for the books if he is appointed as no foreigner has ever taken charge of South Africa's national rugby team. Mitchell has coached in New Zealand, South Africa and also had stints with the Western Force in Australia as well as with the England national team as Clive Woodward's assistant. None of the other candidates boast a track record like that. If he does become Bok coach and implements an adventurous game-plan, don't expect him to change his mind or to back-track on what he believes in.
By David Skippers