The Springboks enter a new era under coach Jacques Nienaber. JOHN GOLIATH looks at the immediate challenges he will face after stepping into the spotlight.
His first head coaching gig is a BIG one …
Nienaber has been in the game for quite some time, but this is his first assignment as the head honcho after years as an assistant coach who focused mostly on the defensive side of the game. He has never had the pressure of the top job, which is a lot different to standing in the background and focusing on your beat. The pressure also doesn’t come any bigger than the Bok job, as the country’s mood depends on what the boys in green and gold do on the field. You need a thick skin for this job, although Nienaber will have the support of his long-time friend and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, which will make it a lot easier.
Maintaining the level of performance after unbelievable 2019 …
Continuity was key for SA Rugby as far as Nienaber’s appointment is concerned, but his main job is going to be to maintain good results on the pitch. The Springboks had a spectacular 2019 under Erasmus, losing only once – to the All Blacks in their World Cup Cup opener. They won the shortened Rugby Championship before going on to lift the Webb-Ellis Cup with a powerful performance in the final against the English. The new Bok coach will have the luxury of working with most of the players who featured at the World Cup, while Erasmus has also built a lot of depth over the last two years. But he has to start well in the incoming tour to make the transition from assistant coach a lot easier.
Make sure he doesn’t neglect his defence coaching duties
The Boks’ defence was impenetrable during the World Cup, which laid the foundation for their run to winning the cup. Over the last few years Nienaber transformed way the South Africans played without the ball, going from a rather passive way of defending to a quick linespeed, which put pressure on the attacking team. But now he has to make sure that the Boks continue to use their defence as a weapon. Nienaber is a brilliant defensive specialist and he needs to grow and evolve the Boks’ defence. He is going to have a lot more responsibility in terms of man-management and strategy, but the Boks needs his defensive know-how.
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