Jacques Nienaber had an interesting route that he followed to get to the Springboks head coach position.
The key catalyst for him was his relationship with the often controversial but brilliant Rassie Erasmus.
After finishing his schooling at Grey College, the top rugby school in the world where he played for their 1st team, he went on to the University of the Free State where he started collaborating with Rassie.
Jacques didn’t play competitive rugby after school and his first involvement with rugby after school didn’t involve any coaching. From 1997 to 2007 he was the physio for the Free State Cheetahs. In 2005 his paths crossed with Rassie again when Rassie started coaching the Cheetahs.
Since then they have been a great duo. They also worked together in the same capacity at the Stormers when Rassie became the director of rugby in Cape Town. In 2008 he switched over to coaching with a focus on defensive coaching initially.
From 2008 to 2014 he was involved in this capacity at Western Province and the Stormers and then became an assistant coach for the Springbok team from 2011 to 2016.
This led to him coaching Munster in 2016/2017 after which he became assistant coach for South Africa again. In this capacity, he was part of the team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2019!
Since 2020 he has been the head coach and has had a bit of an up-and-down run. Overall he won 17/27 matches (63%) with a respectable 50% win record against the All Blacks and a series win against the British and Irish Lions.
Unfortunately, he’s not yet secured a win against France or Ireland.
Going into the 2023 tournament he will face his biggest test yet. The type of rugby that the Springboks started playing at the end of 2022 moved away from their signature style of play but is a lot more exciting.
If he can get his youthful but highly talented backline combinations to work at the World Cup there might be an upset on the cards…