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The appointment of Jacques Nienaber as Springbok coach should come as no surprise. Even before the Rugby World Cup last year, Rassie Erasmus had indicated he would step down from the dual responsibility of coach and Director of Rugby at SA Rugby. The idea of Nienaber being Erasmus’s successor was already being circulated in media circles and gained momentum when the Springboks arrived home with the Webb Ellis Cup. It might be unusual in South African rugby that a trained physiotherapist takes over the coaching job, but Nienaber is more than that. The Bok coach would always need to have a close relationship with the Director of Rugby, and Nienaber’s association with Erasmus dates back to 2005 when Nienaber was the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Cheetahs and Erasmus took over as head coach. When Erasmus moved to the Stormers, Nienaber went with him and became the franchise’s defence coach. In 2010, Nienaber was touted to become the Boks’ defence coach, but the decision was eventually vetoed. However, his call-up to the national team was inevitable as his defence coaching reaped rewards for the Stormers. He was with the Springboks in the 2011 World Cup where South Africa had the best defence record in the pool stage. When Erasmus formed a special coaching team within SA Rugby, Nienaber joined it. When Erasmus went to coach Munster in Ireland, Nienaber went with him. When Erasmus became Bok coach, Nienaber was named assistant Bok coach. His elevation to succeed Erasmus is a natural progression and will be hugely popular decision among the players. – David O’Sullivan
Jacques Nienaber was named as the new Springbok coach on Friday as part of a revised coaching panel, that will report directly to Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby.
Nienaber is promoted from an assistant coach’s role to carry the day-to-day responsibility while Erasmus will continue to direct strategy in a tweaking of a panel that is heavily accented on continuity.
Mzwandile Stick has been reappointed as an assistant coach while in an innovative inclusion, Felix Jones will continue but in a new role as a European-based coaching consultant.
There are two new appointments with Deon Davids appointed forwards coach while Daan Human – the Vodacom Bulls’ scrum coach – takes up the same role with the Springboks on a shared basis.
The appointment of Nienaber, 47, underlines a commitment to continuity with the vastly experienced understudy to Erasmus promoted to the headline role, although the director of rugby would still carry the responsibility for Springbok performances.
“Jacques is highly experienced and has worked with the Springboks on three separate occasions now so knows exactly what the job is about,” said Erasmus.
“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.
“I’ll still be responsible for the strategy and results with Jacques taking operational control. The structure allows the director of rugby to spend more time on other aspects of the role,” said Erasmus.
One of the worst kept secrets in SA rugby is out – our new @Springboks Head Coach is Jacques Nienaber.
— Motshidisi Mohono 🇿🇦 (@MotshidisiM) January 24, 2020
Nienaber said: “This is a massive honour and responsibility, but I think I have a good understanding of what it entails, especially in this new structure.
“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.”
Meanwhile Erasmus thanked departing forwards coach, Matt Proudfoot, for his work with the team over the past four years as the only departing member of the coaching team.
“Matt did a brilliant job with our pack and I’d like to thank him from me, the team and SA Rugby,” said Erasmus.
Davids, 51, graduates after a tough apprenticeship as head coach of the Isuzu Southern Kings, firstly in Vodacom Super Rugby (2016-17) and then in Guinness PRO14 until parting company with the team at the completion of the last season.
Human, 43, the former Springbok front ranker, will continue to work as the scrum coach of the Vodacom Bulls during the Vodacom Super Rugby season but will join the Springboks for the Castle Lager Incoming Series in July, the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in November.
Stick, 35, retains his place in the coaching team as an assistant coach with special responsibility for skills while the highly-rated Jones (32) – who was a last-minute appointment on the eve of the Rugby World Cup – will be based in Europe to improve communication and alignment to address the reality of the number of South African players based on that continent.
The panel was approved by the Executive Council in December.
“The coaching team has undergone a refresh but there is a strong theme of continuity and succession planning,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“The recommendation of the Director of Rugby was unanimously accepted as it strongly accented those aspects.
“Rassie will remain the director of Springbok affairs but this is a deserved opportunity for Jacques to come out of the shadows and provide Test experience to Daan and Deon.
“We are defending the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title in 2020 and are already looking forward to the visit of the British & Irish Lions in just over 18 months’ time so there is no let-up for the team.”
The Springboks play their first match as reigning Rugby World Cup champions against Scotland on Saturday, 4 July (venue to be confirmed).
Springbok coaching team:
- Rassie Erasmus – Director of Rugby
- Jacques Nienaber – Head coach
- Mzwandile Stick – Assistant coach
- Deon Davids – Assistant coach
- Felix Jones – Assistant coach
- Daan Human – Scrum consultant
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