Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber reveals how his dreams and goals have changed over the years as his role and understanding of the game evolved. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The new Bok coach recently spoke to SA Rugby magazine about the challenges facing the team and the South African structures in the short and long term.
He highlighted the importance of beating the All Blacks home and away on a consistent basis. He explained why preparations for a massively significant series against the British & Irish Lions in 2021 are already under way.
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There’s reason to believe that the Boks will take things forward in the wake of their Rugby Championship and World Cup title victories. Nienaber, who began his working life as a physiotherapist, has pushed the boundaries and challenged convention over the past 20 years. One would expect his Bok team to share the same penchant for innovation over the next four.
‘It’s a weird thing to explain,’ Nienaber said when I asked him to reflect on his ambitions as a younger man. Making the transition from physio to conditioning coach, and then another transition from conditioning coach to defence coach, was not something he set out to do from the outset.
‘When I got the opportunity to be a conditioning coach at the Cheetahs, my goal changed. I wanted to be the best conditioning coach I could possibly be. We won three Currie Cups during that period. A new challenge presented itself, and I thought, I’m going to give it a shot as a defence coach. So, as you can see, I didn’t arrive on day one and say, “I want to be a head coach of team X in future.”
‘I’ve always wanted to be involved at the Boks, though,’ he adds. ‘Every time my role changed, so did my goal. I went from wanting to be the Bok physio, to wanting to be the Bok conditioning coach, to wanting to head up the Bok defence.’
Nienaber feels that his skills as a physio shaped his approach as a conditioning coach, and that his skills at a fitness coach contributed to a new and largely successful role on defence.
‘I started to work on defence before I officially made the move from conditioning coach to defence around 2008. I would get the guys to run defensive patterns in the warm-ups. It made sense to me. It was functional.
‘It sounds so simple now, and I’m sure that you would struggle to make those transitions from strength and conditioning to defence these days. But back then they didn’t really have specialised and dedicated defence coaches. I had a blank canvas.’
Read the full interview in the latest edition of SA Rugby magazine
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