Today marks the first test week for Jacques Nienaber as head coach of the Springboks, some 20 months into his tenure. Due to the impact of the pandemic, he has had to wait a long time to lead the charges after their World Cup triumph all the way back in 2019. So here is a little information on the man in charge of South Africa's cherished green and gold.
the 48 year old Nienaber comes from South African rugby factory, Grey College, Bloemfontein where he played on the flank for his high school side. He is a fully qualified physiotherapist and this is where his involvement in the professional game was established.
In 1997 he was at the Cheetahs as part of the medical staff, a role he continued in the role until 2004 when he got involved in strength and conditioning. In 2005, Rassie Erasmus was named head coach of the Free State side and the two kicked off a working relationship that saw them reach the peak, when they won the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
During the course of 2008, Jacques made the move to Western Province, where Rassie was fulfilling the roll of director of rugby. Taking on the roll of defense coach, the impact was quick to see as the Stormers set about becoming one of the strongest defensive sides in Super Rugby. In 2010, they leaked the fewest tries of any team in Super Rugby, making it all the way into the final, where the lost to the Blue Bulls.
Nienaber stayed with the Stormers and was included in the Springboks mobi-sport coaching unit that was assisting with coaching at grass roots level. An endeavor put together by Nienaber and Rassie to improve the quality of the South African game from the ground up.
As trends will show where Rassie goes, Jacques goes and this proved true in 2016, when the pair left South Africa behind and joined Munster in Ireland. Rassie took up the roll of director of rugby and Nienaber continued in his roll of defense coach. The pair were on a three year contract with Munster and were seeing great success with the side. Both admit to being very happy during their time in Ireland and as was discussed in the docu-series Chasing the Sun, were a little reluctant to come home.
After watching the Boks play against Ireland, the desire grew for the pair to return to South Africa, and well... as history now shoes, they came back with a bang. Rassie had taken up the roll of head coach, appointing Jacques along side him as they set about building a side that could challenge for the 2019 World Cup in only two years.
Rassie's time as head coach was always limited as he was set to take up the role of Director of South African Rugby. What could be more perfect than his long time partner also taking the step up and for the first time, taking on the roll of head coach. The strong working relationship between the two will serve South African Rugby greatly and the team will thrive in the consistency.
This is the first time in the professional era of Springbok rugby, that a member of the current coaching set up, has been promoted. It has become common practice, and quite disruptive for the entire coaching staff to be replaced every World Cup cycle. This hopefully marks the end to that bizarre trend as consistency is key, especially after such a long absence.
Congratulations Jacques, your moment has arrived and you have the country behind you as you gear up to face the iconic British & Irish Lions.