New Bok coach Jacques Nienaber says any reservations around the time needed to turn the Springboks’ fortunes around were eradicated by Rassie Erasmus’ unwavering belief.
Nienaber was one of Erasmus’ assistant coaches during the latter’s two-season stint as Springbok coach, a fairytale like tenure at the helm that ended in World Cup success for the South African team.
Following the Boks’ World Cup triumph, Erasmus handed over the reins to Nienaber, who is not only his colleague but a close friend and confidant.
Speaking in the latest episode of the SA Rugby Podcast, Nienaber opened up about their relationship, the breakdown law application under the new interpretations in New Zealand and the positives from the Covid-19 lockdown.
He also talked candidly about the reservations he had about the Boks’ ability when he and Erasmus first discussed returning to South Africa from Munster, where they coached together between 2016 and 2017.
‘Rassie was 100% convinced we would win the World Cup,’ said Nienaber. ‘I knew there was exceptional talent coming through – because I worked with the SA U20s and SA Schools sides until 2016 – but I thought that less than two years to prepare was pushing the envelope in terms of making changes and aligning to be competitive in a World Cup.
‘Earlier in my career, I worked with experienced coaches, but Rassie was just a little bit different. Very practical and out-of-the-box are probably the two words that best describe him.’
Nienaber, who served as a defence consultant during the Boks failed 2011 World Cup campaign, also explained how special it is for him to be part of the Springbok set-up.
‘Everyone knows the Springboks, but until you’re inside and part of that team, you don’t know what it’s all about. Only when you’re outside that set-up, you realise how much you’ve missed it, so it was a very emotional return for me to come back from Munster and join the Springboks again – a massive honour and privilege.’
Listen to the full podcast below:
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images