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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber - the watchman’s watching

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber and South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus during the Test match against Wales on 6 Nov 2021. Picture: Mark Lewis/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber and South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus during the Test match against Wales on 6 Nov 2021. Picture: Mark Lewis/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published May 27, 2022


Johannesburg - Jacques Nienaber is quite content to sit back and watch South Africa’s players perform for their various clubs and franchises – both abroad and domestically – as he plots the Springboks’ upcoming season, but they should all be warned: It is under the intense scrutiny of the national team’s mentor.

Speaking at the announcement of SA Rugby’s new partnership with Betway in Rosebank on Thursday, the Springboks’ head coach said that no formal discussions regarding the composition of the Bok squad to face Wales in July had been considered, but there is a list of players noted by the think-tank of Bok rugby.

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The reasoning is simple: At this crucial time in the season when three SA teams – the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers – are battling for supremacy in the United Rugby Championship (URC), and with a number of SA players doing similar business in Europe, Nienaber and company don’t want a cacophony of opinion distracting anyone.

As such, don’t expect an announcement regarding the make-up of the squad until all of that is done and dusted.

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“At the back-end of the season, we knew that there would be a couple of teams that would have qualified for the (URC) knockouts and that is where you want them to be. It is probably going to be the closest thing to Test match rugby,” Nienaber explained.

“Currently, the team announcement will only be after they have finished in the knockouts because the players must now focus and perform for their franchises.

“They shouldn’t hear the national coach’s voice now. They should hear their local coach’s, and their club coach’s, and their franchise coach’s voice.”

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We haven’t had a selectors’ meeting,” he added, switching over to Afrikaans.

“We decided that we would rather have the teams playing. There is a group of certain players that we are watching and we are holding a magnifying glass over them.

“We know who we are watching…”

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The Boks start their season in July in a three-match home Test series against Wales.

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Wayne Pivac has already selected a 33-man squad for that upcoming tour due to the fact that no Welsh franchises will be participating in the URC play-offs from next weekend onwards.

For Nienaber, that will afford under-pressure Wales coach Pivac an interesting advantage.

“Regarding the Wales team, I think he has chosen the best team that he could from those who are not injured. It is a good Welsh team,” the Bok coach said.

“They will have the advantage of not having any team in the URC (quarter-finals), so for all intents and purposes they can be in camp right now. We will have a staggered inflow of players in our preparations, as teams and players fall out of their competitions.”

It will arguably be Nienaber’s first season in charge where there will be a sense of normality since taking over in 2020. The coronavirus has undoubtedly made his labours all the more strenuous in recent seasons, and the Bok coach expressed a measure of relief that he could look forward to a conventional year, Covid-19 willing.

Meanwhile, Nienaber also conveyed joy over the new Betway partnership through the Next Phase campaign, which will target developing the coaching stock in the women’s game over the next three years.

Said Nienaber: “This is a great initiative from Betway in putting effort into coaches.

“One coach can influence 40 girls not only on a technical and tactical level but also on a mental level by building confidence and getting that team spirit and cohesion. That is what rugby is all about – it is a game for all shapes and sizes…

“Girls must have that avenue. If they want to play rugby, it must be available to them and this is the first big initiative to start creating pathways.”


IOL Sport

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Jacques Nienaber