Bok coach Jacques Nienaber to step down after World Cup regardless of tournament outcome

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber to step down after World Cup regardless of tournament outcome
Jacques Nienaber (Springbok Coach) during the SA Rugby debrief session at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)

Jacques Nienaber will finish his run as Springbok national coach at the conclusion of the team’s Rugby World Cup 2023 campaign in France, before taking up a position in Leinster’s coaching ranks next year.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber will leave his post after Rugby World Cup 2023, regardless of South Africa’s tournament outcome in France later this year.

Nienaber did not seek to renew his South African contract, despite being offered new terms, and will move on. He will join Irish giants Leinster in Ireland, following the World Cup.

There he will replace Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster next season.

Nienaber, 50, has been involved with Springbok rugby on-and-off as a defence consultant since 2011. In 2018 he was officially named an assistant coach, and in 2020 he was formally appointed as head coach.

Daily Maverick understands that current assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids have both renewed their contracts until 2027, while director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is still under contract until 2025. 

At this stage it appears that Erasmus will stay on, although he and Nienaber have worked as a duo for more than 20 years. Nienaber’s venture to another coaching role in the northern hemisphere without Erasmus, could mark the first time the pair have not coached together.

Nienaber celebrates with Damian Willemse after their 27-13 win over England at Twickenham on 26 November, 2022. (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images).

Speculation about Erasmus?

There is some speculation though that Erasmus could also be on his way to Leinster in a director of rugby role.

Nienaber cited personal reasons for the decision, but said his focus remained on the major task of the year, which was to “give everything” in the Springboks’ defence of their Rugby World Cup title.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The commendable madness in ‘disruptor’ Bok coach Nienaber’s method

“The last few years have been the highlight of my coaching career and it’s with a heavy heart that I’m finishing up my time with the Springboks and leaving the country for personal reasons,” said Nienaber in a statement.

“The decision is made and that’s firmly behind me now. My sole focus is on seeing the Springboks defend the Rugby World Cup title this year. I will continue to channel all my energy into ensuring that we leave no stone unturned to achieve that.”

Rian Oberholzer, SA Rugby CEO, said: “Jacques was very open with us about the reasons for wanting to leave South Africa at the end of the season. We will confirm a successor in the title role of Springbok coach in due course – that planning will go on in the background, but Rassie Erasmus’ services are locked in to the end of 2025 at the very least.” 

No indication of a replacement was given but Stick, who has been in the Bok system for six years, is the most likely successor within the current system.

Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick is one of the candidates to replace Nienaber in 2024. (Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)

Leinster’s Leo Cullen 

Speaking to from their base in South Africa, coach Leo Cullen said, “We are delighted to confirm that Jacques Nienaber will be joining Leinster Rugby next season.

 “Jacques is a world-class coach with a winning track record at the very highest level of the game, and we’re all looking forward to learning from him over the coming seasons.

“With the addition of the South African teams to the United Rugby Championship and the Heineken Champions Cup, Jacques’ in-depth knowledge and experience of working with the Springboks will be a great addition to the group.

“We are all really excited to welcome Jacques and his family to Leinster after the Rugby World Cup, and I’m sure all Leinster fans will give him a warm welcome when he arrives.”

Physio by qualification

Nienaber, who is a physiotherapist by qualification, has also had spells with Western Province, the Stormers and with Munster Rugby as Defence Coach in 2016, also under Erasmus.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Has coach Jacques Nienaber built a Springbok squad capable of winning the Rugby World Cup?

Commenting on the appointment, Leinster Rugby CEO Shane Nolan said: “Since my arrival, Leo’s contract extension and then Stuart’s replacement have been key priorities, and it’s great to now get Jacques’ signature across the line.”

 “Jacques brings incredible experience and pedigree to the role. He knows the Irish system well, as he does the URC and its demands. And obviously, his in-depth knowledge of South African rugby is incredibly valuable as we see both the URC and the Champions Cup competitions evolve year-on-year with the introduction of the South African clubs.

“Having someone of Jacques’ calibre on board is huge for the club as we look to our next stage of evolution, and we look forward to welcoming Jacques and his family to Dublin in due course.”

Jacques Nienaber and Siya Kolisi share a moment before facing England at Twickenham last November. (Photo: Alex Broadway/Gallo Images)

Timing for Leinster move

Nienaber will join Leinster Rugby when South African interest in the Rugby World Cup comes to an end. 

“The anticipation and excitement are building as we prepare to defend the Rugby World Cup title,” Nienaber said. 

“It continues to be an amazing time with the Springboks and it’s a privilege to be involved in my third World Cup after 2011 and 2019. Being in a World Cup year my focus will be back on defending the title back-to-back.

“It is always hard to leave an institution that has provided you with so much honour, joy and fulfilment, but the only constant in life is change. At the end of the World Cup, myself and my family will leave for Ireland to join up with Leinster Rugby.

“When the time is right, I will be looking forward to new and exciting challenges. 

“The club is renowned as a quality and high-performance environment and it’s an honour to join up with Leinster. I look forward to contributing to that after the World Cup.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • fishingboy says:

    Good opportunity for him and his family to get out of RSA.
    I’ve come back from Ozz, but seriously considering going back again.

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