JOHANNESBURG - New South Africa rugby coach Johan "Rassie" Erasmus acknowledged Thursday that he faces a "huge task" reviving fallen giants South Africa.
The twice world champions are ranked only sixth in the world after winning just 11 of 25 Tests in the past two seasons, during which they twice conceded 57 points to New Zealand.
Those humiliating losses cost Allister Coetzee his job halfway through a four-year contract, opening the way for former Springboks loose forward Erasmus to take over.
"It is a huge task to coach the Springboks and I am very privileged," Erasmus said in a SA Rugby statement.
"I really believe we have the players and the rugby intellectual property to turn things around and mount a serious challenge at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"We have 18 Tests and just under 600 days until Japan 2019 and a lot of planning has already gone into our Rugby World Cup preparations.
"It is very important that we prepare thoroughly for the matches against Wales and England in June."
The Springboks season begins on June 2 with a one-off Test against Wales in Washington.
Rassie: “I really believe we have the players and the rugby IP to turn things around and to mount a serious challenge at the RWC. We have 18 Tests until Japan 2019 and have started planning, but it is also very important that we prepare thoroughly for the four Tests in June."— South African Rugby (@Springboks) March 1, 2018
Erasmus has chosen Jacques Nienaber (defence), Pieter de Villiers (scrums) and Mzwandile Stick (backs) as his assistants.
De Villiers is a South Africa-born former France prop who worked with the Springboks previously.
Former national sevens team star Stick assisted Coetzee for one season before being ditched.
Ex-All Blacks coach John Mitchell, who is in charge of Pretoria-based Super Rugby side Northern Bulls, hailed the appointment of Erasmus in an interview with New Zealand Radio Sport.
"Rassie has always been an impressive student of the game and he has always been innovative as well.
"I think having taken time out has rejuvenated his thinking about the game and clearly he has hit the sweet spot as a coach.
"Sometimes it is good to get out of the game and find a new way to do things -- he certainly did that at Munster.
"He is not going to do it on his own. The critical thing is who he surrounds himself with... that is the key to his appointment."
Mitchell coached New Zealand for two years before being sacked after they lost to hosts Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
BREAKING! Rassie Erasmus will spearhead a streamlined but experienced Springbok management team until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup and will combine his Springbok coaching duties with his current role as Director of Rugby at SA Rugby. pic.twitter.com/rMCc7dPPL5— South African Rugby (@Springboks) March 1, 2018