It is a smooth transfer of power. And even. He doesn't even really change hands. Rassie Erasmus, coach of the South African world champions keeps control of the Springboks which he officially leaves since this Friday under the orders of his former assistant Jacques Nienaber, for an indefinite period.
The friend of always. Jacques Nienaber, 47, has lived in the wake of Rassie Erasmus for twenty years. He has never played in a professional XV, nor been a head coach. He started as a physiotherapist with Erasmus when he was still a player, and ended up as a defense coach for the World Cup in Japan, a key sector in the conquest of the title won 32-12 in the final against the English on November 2 last. A striking gap with his predecessor, who had already conquered, as a player, a third place at the 1999 World Cup and led the prestigious Munster when he was appointed in 2018 at the head of the Springboks. "I met Rassie in the military when we were conscripted," said Nienaber. Our rugby relationship started at university: he was the team captain, and I was a physiotherapist. The friends then embark on a collaboration that will take them from the Free State Cheetahs to the Springboks, via the South African Stormers and Irish Munster.
In duet more than in solo. Rassie Erasmus, crowned with his world title, does not intend to give carte blanche to his longtime friend. Director of rugby for the men's and women's selections, he will be in charge of the strategy, and above all, he will closely monitor Nienaber and his assistants, details the federation in a press release. "Jacques will be responsible for the preparation of matches and day-to-day operations, but I will be with the team most of the time and in the coaching box with Jacques during the meetings," confirms Erasmus. How will the duo share the responsibilities? There is all the stake between the two men who sometimes have "tactical disagreements" according to the former physiotherapist. Especially since Erasmus himself recognized that he was "very interventionist" even before we officially knew the identity of his successor.
Its mission: to stay at the top. The Federation itself highlights the continuity represented by this passing of the baton. She is also on the side of the assistants, since two of the three assistants to the new director of rugby are offered a new contract. Only Matthew Proudfoot, the South African forwards coach in Japan, left to occupy the same function in the English selection. He is replaced by Daan Human and Deon Davis. The task will nevertheless be arduous because Nienaber takes the Springboks to the top, world champions and defending champions in Rugby Championship. First meeting, on July 4 against Scotland at home, before a series of 12 or 13 tests.