• World Cup-winning coach to return to role as director of rugby
• Former physiotherapist Nienaber expected to take over
South Africa’s defence guru, Jacques Nienaber, is in contention to succeed Rassie Erasmus as the new Springboks coach, with the world champions now turning their attention to the British and Irish Lions tour in 2021 after their success in Japan.
Erasmus, who stepped in to succeed Allister Coetzee in February 2018, is set to return to his previous role as South Africa’s director of rugby following the 32-12 victory over England in Saturday’s final that secured a third Rugby World Cup triumph. A former physiotherapist who first met Erasmus when they served together in the army and also studied with him at university, Nienaber has been credited with helping to transform the Boks’ fortunes having conceded just four tries in their seven matches.
Reports in South Africa suggest that the 47-year-old who also worked with Erasmus at Free State Cheetahs, Stormers and Munster is now likely to step into his old friend’s shoes – a prospective appointment that was welcomed by No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
“Jacques is a fantastic person. When I first met him, he was a physiotherapist and now he is the defence coach. I don’t know who is going to take over, but he would be a good replacement,” he said.
“It’s nice to see someone who is part of the coaching set-up take the next step in their career … if it is going to be him. Jacques understands how we play and how we want to move forward as a team.”
Erasmus has previously paid tribute to Nienaber for his influential role in South Africa’s revival, describing him as a “brilliant communicator”. Former Southern Kings coach Deon David and Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann are among the other candidates, although with less than two years until the Lions tour, continuity is expected to be the watchword.
“When I took over it was 618 days to the World Cup and we planned to win it. It is now 614 days to the British and Irish Lions and we will start planning now,” said Erasmus.
“Lose the first Test and people forget about the World Cup. Depending on who will be the head coach‚ the director of rugby will definitely not have an office job behind a desk just thinking strategically. It will be a hands-on job‚ very close to the head coach.”