Why Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is living the dream ahead of Rugby World Cup

FILE - Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber during a press conference. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

FILE - Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber during a press conference. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 25, 2023


By his own admission, Jacques Nienaber has a measure of control over his feelings but on Saturday, the Springbok coach might find himself hard-pressed to remain master of his emotions.

The Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Ellis Park (kick-off 5pm) will be Nienaber’s final Test as head coach of the Springboks on South African soil. The final weeks of his national assignment will see the 50-year-old plan the Springboks World Cup defence and inspire his squad to hold onto the Webb Ellis Cup in France.

First up, after this weekend, will be a trip to Argentina, then the World Cup 33-man squad announcement on August 8, followed by a warm-up Test versus Wales at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on August 19. A final warm-up match follows a week later against the All Blacks at Twickenham.

Nienaber and Co will then be assured of four more matches — all at the World Cup starting from September 10 — against Scotland, Romania, Ireland and Tonga, with a stay of execution if they can progress into the knockout rounds of the showpiece event.

After that, Nienaber will take up his post as an assistant coach to Leo Cullen at Leinster, his Springbok career as coach either ending in glory or ignominy.

“I believe that I am not a very emotional person,” Nienaber reckoned on Tuesday when musing about his last game in charge in SA as Springbok coach.

“If you take the first time I coached the Boks at any international level, it was in 2004 with the SA ‘A’ team that went to Argentina, funnily enough. The first time with the senior team was in 2011.

“A guy works so hard, and you hope and you believe that one day you just might — just for at least one Test — be with the Boks. Perhaps, if things go well, you can go to a World Cup. So, personally, to be part of three World Cups, is unbelievable.

“It is a dream," he added and if one was to squint just a little bit, perhaps even with a glint in his eye.

“I should have just been a physio in Bloemfontein. It is more than a dream that has come true in my life.

“I told the players, listen, it is personal for me to coach them and to work with them. It is lekker to work for them.

“They make one happy. It is going to be somewhat emotional, but it is not to say that it will be the last time. You never know what might happen in the future.

“A lot of things happen in rugby. You never know.”

Nienaber begins his final stint with the Springboks with a 63%-win record. He will hope to boost that statistic in the coming weeks and help the Springboks cling onto the World Cup for another four years, which will certainly grant him hero status.


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