Home News The 2023 Rugby World Cup and Jacques Nienaber: South Africa’s Coach and the Unexpected Turn From Failed Exams

The 2023 Rugby World Cup and Jacques Nienaber: South Africa’s Coach and the Unexpected Turn From Failed Exams

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Rugby Coach's Evolution: Triumph from Setbacks

In January 2020, Jacques Nienaber assumed leadership of the Springboks, the reigning world champions, and guided them to a triumphant series win against the British and Irish Lions the following year.

Qatar Airways Cup: South Africa vs. New Zealand
Venue: Twickenham Dates: August 25 Kick-off: 19:30 BST

Nienaber finds himself reflecting on events from four years prior. South Africa’s last game before the 2019 Rugby World Cup was a high-scoring, relatively casual trouncing of Japan’s hosts, in front of less than 30,000 spectators north of Tokyo.

But this time, the warm-up game feels unique – an 80,000 fan-packed, sold-out match against New Zealand at Twickenham. Despite the contrast, Nienaber notices similarities.

“In 2019, despite people thinking we were insane, Japan in Japan was the right choice for us as they were strong contenders,” he reveals. They eventually played Japan in the quarter-finals, and he predicts playing either France or New Zealand in the same round this time – assuming they survive their pool.

This isn’t mere rhetoric; South Africa’s road is fraught with danger in a seemingly unbalanced France 2023 draw. Their pool includes top-ranked teams Ireland and Scotland, with France or three-time winners New Zealand likely waiting in the quarters.

Nienaber explains the stark reality: “We’re in knockout rugby from the first match against Scotland. That’s how it is.”

This World Cup represents Nienaber’s maiden – and potentially sole – opportunity to steer a team to the title. After serving as Rassie Erasmus’s assistant during the successful 2019 campaign, he’s now the head coach.

He’s leaving for Leinster, regardless of the championship outcome, and at 50, Nienaber will endure nine intense weeks in the public eye, hoping to finally emerge from obscurity.

With a background in physiotherapy, Nienaber combined his coaching with being an on-field medic. Though never a rugby star, he attended Grey College, renowned for shaping many Springboks. His contemporaries included Heinrich Fuls, Pieter Muller, Ollie le Roux, and others.

Nienaber’s passion was rugby, but physically he wasn’t cut out for it. “I played for the seventh team at Grey. I was a loose forward, but I lacked the size for it,” he confesses.

Had he achieved the grades he sought, Nienaber might have abandoned rugby after school. But failing to get into his desired physiotherapy course, he chose to wait a year, complete mandatory military service, and reapply. That choice changed his life.

During service, a school friend introduced him to his roommate – a young Erasmus. Together they commanded a Rooikat armored car, a partnership that began their intertwined careers. Erasmus was always the frontman, with Nienaber more in the background.

Post military, Erasmus shifted to coaching and hired Nienaber as a physio. They worked together at Free State, the Stormers, and Munster. Nienaber applied his expertise in tightening defenses and soothing muscles.

When Erasmus stepped down in 2020, Nienaber seized the chance to become the head coach of the world champions.

Among the lessons learned during nearly three decades with Erasmus, the most crucial was understanding team dynamics, something carved into his memory within an armored car’s confined space.

Nienaber emphasizes the importance of collaboration and alignment, regardless of socio-economic, cultural, or religious differences. “You can’t do it on your own. You have to find a way to work together,” he asserts.

Now, Nienaber has strategized a route for Springboks’ robust forces to return to global prominence. The upcoming two months will determine whether he leaves, mission accomplished.

And for those seeking even more of the rugby action, don’t forget to tune into the Rugby Union Weekly podcast!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Rugby Coach’s Evolution: Triumph from Setbacks

What is the focus of the article?

The article delves into Jacques Nienaber’s evolution from failed exams to becoming South Africa’s Rugby coach, leading the team in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Who is Jacques Nienaber?

Jacques Nienaber is the head coach of the South African national rugby team, also known as the Springboks. He took over the role after serving as an assistant during the team’s victorious 2019 campaign.

What is the significance of the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

The 2023 Rugby World Cup is a major international rugby tournament that showcases the best teams from around the world competing for the championship title.

How did Jacques Nienaber’s journey begin?

Nienaber’s journey began at Grey College, where he played rugby but wasn’t a star player due to his size. He initially pursued physiotherapy but failed to get into the desired course, leading to a pivotal decision that changed his life.

What role did Jacques Nienaber play during his military service?

During his military service, Nienaber was introduced to Rassie Erasmus, who would become a lifelong collaborator. They served together and their partnership extended into the world of rugby coaching.

How did Jacques Nienaber’s career progress in coaching?

Nienaber transitioned from physiotherapy to coaching, working alongside Erasmus at various teams. In January 2020, he took on the role of head coach for the Springboks.

What challenges does South Africa face in the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

South Africa is in a tough pool with Ireland and Scotland, both strong rugby teams. If they progress, they are likely to face France or New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

What lesson did Jacques Nienaber learn from his military experience?

Nienaber learned the importance of collaboration and alignment in a team, regardless of differences in background, culture, or socioeconomic status.

What is the takeaway from this article?

The article highlights Nienaber’s journey, from setbacks to leading the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup, underscoring the value of teamwork and perseverance.

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