Jacques Nienaber on why he joined Leinster and says there is no ‘silver bullet’ for success

‘You must be in the fight until the last and then you hope you nail a big moment, and you hope they don’t’

Although Jacques Nienaber is adamant that there isn’t a “silver bullet” that will help Leinster win in Europe, he does hope that their most recent effort will be improved.

It was time to be closer to home, so in January Nienaber decided to forgo making history with his own South Africa and take on a new club challenge in Ireland.

Ironically that meant moving his family to Dublin but it means that Nienaber has found a way of staying at the top of the coaching game while regaining a more normal family life.

He notes that compared to the roughly 38 games a club plays in a season, there were fewer Test matches with the Boks this year—13.

However, he clarified, saying, “It has been six months and a day to the Sunday that I have sat in my house with my boy since I left my home in Cape Town to begin with the preparation camps.

“‘You know that you’ve been away for six months and a day,’ he said. “No, I hadn’t realized that,” I replied.

“I simply thought I had spent too much time apart from my family.

“My wife said, ‘listen, I don’t think we can do another four years of this’ and the kids said, ‘Dad, we need you at home’.

“I was nervous because I didn’t want to lose that cutting edge, being challenged. I didn’t want to lose that because I feel that makes you a good coach.

And for that reason, I was a perfect fit for this job. Being a coach will be a huge challenge for me. There will be high expectations, but at least I get to spend time with my family and I’m not on vacation.

“I just needed to get away from international rugby, even though other international (sides) had made offers. That was the cause.”

Reiterating that his most recent Rugby World Cup victory with the Boks is “water under the bridge” and that it’s time to move on, Nienaber grinned.

The 51-year-old had a good time last Saturday night at the Sportsground having traveled to Dublin ahead of his match against his old club, Munster.

“There was a Connacht group stood there and we couldn’t get into the box,” he recalled. “They were having a

pint and I said, ‘I’ll have a pint with you guys here next time.’ They chuckled and joked around.

“The cold gets in your bones and you have to have double-layer socks on, so I made that mistake again.”

Even though it might take some time for Leinster to adjust, it would be a huge early success if they could defeat La Rochelle, their archenemy, on Sunday for the first time in four tries at the start of this season’s Champions Cup.

Just a few weeks have passed since Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus’ team pulled off a near-miracle by winning back-to-back World Cups by defeating France, England, and New Zealand by a single point in each match.

The Boks had to go to the bottom of the well to achieve greatness.

Leinster, on the other hand, has only won four Champions Cup titles overall after losing to La Rochelle in two semi-finals and two finals over the previous three years.

Nienaber remarked, “There are times when you just need a little bit of luck.” Sometimes all it takes to win a game by a point is a huge play, like Cheslin Kobe’s charge down in the quarterfinals.

“I know that’s not what people want to hear, but that is the reality: sometimes all you need is a little bit of luck, and sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.

At times, you’re just a foot away. Perhaps a pass is made, you score, the game is won, and no one questions you. However, occasionally you knock the ball.

“The thing is, in big games, it’s going to be that tight and you must try and play the big points well. You must try and nail the big points.

“Hopefully I can add value to that, but there is no silver bullet. There’s no ‘listen guys, if you did this, x, y, and z, you will win big games’.

“You must be in the fight until the last and then you hope you nail a big moment, and you hope they don’t.”

The Blues’ new senior coach compares the working relationship between Nienaber, who will prioritize defense, and head coach Leo Cullen to that of Erasmus, with whom he spent thirty years working together.

In a nutshell, Nienaber stated: “We both contributed to each other’s responsibilities, so anything that happened on the field was my responsibility and anything that happened off the field was his responsibility.

“Andrew (Goodman) will lead the attack while Leo provides input; similarly, Leo will choose the team while Andrew provides input.

Thus, I believe it to be essentially the same. All that matters is that everyone understands their responsibilities.”

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