Wednesday 23 October 2019

Nienaber: All Black Test was good prep for Ireland

Springbok defence coach Jacques Nienaber. Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
Springbok defence coach Jacques Nienaber. Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Cian Tracey In Hamamatsu

The Springboks were travelling on the bullet train to Nagoya whilst Ireland were taking on Scotland.

That didn't stop the coaching staff keeping one eye on proceedings and while they will delve further into the game if, as expected, the two teams do meet in the quarter-final, South Africa's brains trust saw enough to hammer home the fact that Ireland would provide very stiff opposition.

During his time working as Munster's defence coach Jacques Nienaber made a huge impact in a short space of time, so much so that the province made repeated efforts to keep him in Limerick.

Instead, like his close friend Rassie Erasmus, the lure of returning home proved too much and he also prematurely packed his bags.

Nienaber is one of the most respected defence coaches in the world and in the early stages of last week's defeat to the All Blacks, it looked as though he had conjured up another defensive master-lass.

The Boks will be disappointed by how they slipped up having started so well, but Nienaber believes that playing New Zealand that early on in the tournament will be ideal preparation for the Ireland game, should it arise.

"Yes," Nienaber agreed, when asked if that was the case.

"Playing the All Blacks, who are the reigning world champions, always (helps). I told Rassie today, it is almost a benefit having a semi-final type of game in your pool.

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"We learned a lot out of it and I know it's a cliché because everyone says that when you lose. But yes, we did."

Despite being in transit, Nienaber kept tabs on Ireland's progress and he was impressed by what he saw, particularly in how Andy Farrell's defence shut Scotland out.

"We watched on laptops so it wasn't with a clinical eye," he explained.

"But if you look at last year and you look at the defence of international teams, I think Ireland and Wales conceded like 1.2 tries a match, around about 15 points a game, so depending on what metric you look at, they were probably the stingiest defences.

"Obviously they are a phenomenal defensive unit. They only conceded three points on Sunday, so they were solid as rock as always."

Erasmus consulted Nienaber about the possibility of adding Felix Jones to the backroom team and he didn't have to think twice about it.

Just as Erasmus was, Nienaber was hugely impressed by what he saw in Jones when they worked together with Munster. He was genuinely surprised to see him leave.

"He is the same old same old Felix that I knew then," he maintained.

Craic

"As Rassie said, he has got a good work ethic and always good for a joke or a craic, as you would say in Ireland. We'd like to get him out for a beer but he is pretty focused but he is the same guy that I worked with then.

"He was pretty solid in terms of what he brought and delivered. When we started out he was just going to be like the skills coach and then the tragedy of Axel (Foley's passing) happened and he had to jump into the deep end and start swimming. He developed quickly then and he had to.

"I was the same as Rassie in terms of getting used to the different environments.

"You know you can play in Connacht on the 31st of December when it is minus two degrees and the wind is howling. It's something that we will never play in South Africa.

"It was funny to walk into a changing room at half-time and the players are standing there rubbing their hands under warm tap water. It's something we will never see."

Irish Independent

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