Jerry Flannery can help sharpen up detail in Springbok armour

Former Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery was named as one of the Springboks’ new coaches ahead of the upcoming international season

Former Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery was named as one of the Springboks’ new coaches ahead of the upcoming international season. Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP

Published Feb 10, 2024


Coming in as defence coach, Irishman Jerry Flannery will have one of, if not the biggest role to fill in the new Springbok management set-up as the world champions start preparing for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

They lost the mastermind of their defensive plans, former mentor Jacques Nienaber, who made the Boks one of the stingiest sides in world rugby when it came to scoring tries against them.

The Boks became a tackling force under Nienaber – first when he was an assistant coach and then as the head coach – as they took their defensive strategies to new heights.

They conceded only four tries over three play-off matches at last year's World Cup against hosts France, England and New Zealand.

Flannery, a former hooker, has been the defence guru at Harlequins, and will step into the role with massive pressure on him, especially with the first official series of the Boks being against the country he played for.

The pressure will be about getting to know and understand how the Bok defensive plans work, and there will be extra pressure to get them ready over the next couple of months before Ireland arrive for the two-Test series in Pretoria and Durban on July 6 and 13 respectively.

Nienaber left an indelible mark on Bok rugby, especially in fixing a defensive system that leaked 57 points against the All Blacks in Albany back in 2017.

It’s especially their calmness under pressure during big defensive plays that made the Boks’ defence the stand-out aspect under Nienaber.

That massive line-speed in the back line, cutting off the attack of their opponents at the centre or digging in on the tryline and keeping their opponents from burrowing over, were trademarks of the Nienaber era.

Rassie Erasmus, the Springbok head coach, will allow Flannery as much time as possible to settle in and get used to what the system demands from him.

At the same time, the South Africans will hope their defence does not take a knock in the absence of Nienaber.

Flannery will get a first taste of exactly how things work in the national set-up during the upcoming alignment camps as they prepare for the Irish invasion.

A good defensive showing against his countrymen will go a long way in winning the trust of the fickle South African supporters early on in Flannery’s Bok coaching career.

He will definitely not change much of the winning defensive recipe that is already installed at the world champions.

But if Flannery can help them sharpen up on some small detail, while adding his flavour to it, it will be a major win in the Springboks’ books.


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