Will Jacques Nienaber’s Ireland impact prove costly for Springboks?

Then Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber addresses the media as the team arrived at O.R Tambo international airport with the Rugby World Cup trophy

Then Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber addresses the media as the team arrived at O.R Tambo international airport with the Rugby World Cup trophy. Photo: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Published Dec 21, 2023


Ireland star Josh van der Flier has praised the impact made by Jacques Nienaber at Leinster – and that cannot be good for the Springboks as they look forward to hosting the Irish next year.

The men in green will be coming to South Africa on a mission after losing out on the Webb Ellis Cup when they had been hotly tipped to win it for the first time.

They beat the Boks in a fiercely contested pool game, only to be knocked out by the All Blacks in the semis while the South Africans went on to defend their title.

Unquestionably, Ireland will see next year’s two-Test July series in South Africa as a revenge mission of sorts.

And that is why it won’t sit well with Bok supporters to hear that Ireland’s best players reckon that former SA coach Nienaber is improving their performances.

Nienaber, a double World Cup winner, joined Leinster last month and has made an immediate impact on a squad that is almost the Ireland national team in disguise.

Openside flank Van der Flier, a recent World Rugby Player of the Year, said this week: “Jacques is brilliant. One thing about him, it’s hard to describe it really, I find he really inspires you.

“I go into a game wanting to defend for him. He’s an inspirational person in that way.

“The amount of work he puts in is incredible,” Van der Flier continued. “I’ve had a few glimpses at his laptop when he’s been showing me things, and he puts a huge amount of work into defence and goes into the tiniest details.

“Also, we’ve had a few chats where he shows me clips or talks things through. He’s been good for me in terms of things I can grow in my game. I think it’s been the same for the lads all across the board.”

While Nienaber is not a member of the Ireland coaching staff, his improvement of the many Leinster players in the Ireland set-up is hardly in Springbok interests ahead of the Test matches in Pretoria (July 6) and Durban (July 13).

Of course, Nienaber is no longer Springbok property, and rugby is a professional sport where coaches and players have a right to earn a living wherever they choose.

Another area where Nienaber can indirectly help the Ireland cause is in his preparation of the Leinster team for matches against South African opposition in the URC and the Champions Cup. Springbok players will be analysed and intelligence about them shared.

You can’t blame Nienaber for proving his worth to his new employers, but it is unfortunate that he has an influential role in Irish rugby so soon after the World Cup and just months before Ireland’s tour here. The Ireland camp might argue that it works both ways because they have Bok locks RG Snyman (currently with Munster, but he has signed for Leinster next season) and Jean Kleyn (Munster) picking up intelligence on the Irish players that will come in handy when they return to the SA camp before the Ireland tour.

Perhaps we should also respect the fact that Nienaber is a man of integrity, and that he won’t share too many Bok secrets with the Irish.

The famed ‘battle stats’ that each Springbok had to earn to gain selection should remain behind a green-and-gold curtain.

IOL Sport