Jacques Nienaber’s warning to Leinster over ‘copy and pasting’ Springboks success

Jacques Nienaber says that he will not be employing the same defensive system with Leinster that he implemented with the Springboks.

Nienaber, who led South Africa to their fourth Rugby World Cup victory, has ties to the Irish province.

The South African is recognized as one of the game’s greatest defense strategists, and his strategies were vital in the Boks’ victories in both the British and Irish Lions series and the World Cup.

The defense of the Boks, which featured players like Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe, and Kurt-Lee Arendse flying up off their wings to shut down threatening attacks, was extremely difficult to break down during his six years with the national team. Outside centers had a lot of pressure to drift or shoot up to do the same.

Leinster’s defence under Nienaber

There is a lot of anticipation around Nienaber’s arrival in Dublin and expectations that he will implement comparable defensive tactics. However, the strategist disclosed that this is not going to happen due to the disparities in the playing squad’s cultures, personalities, and skill levels.

“Let me start this way: the skill set and athletic ability of the South African players differs from that of the Leinster players, so I don’t think you can copy and paste,” he said.

Both the skill sets and the athletic characteristics are different here.

Finding out where this group’s skill set is and realizing that some of it exceeds what we had in South Africa is perhaps the most irritating thing for me. Some of them are more athletically gifted than others.

The important thing for me, therefore, is to figure out what we have and how to use it with a system that I have in mind, he continued. It won’t always be in the same manner as how we defended against Munster or South Africa.

“It wasn’t the same defending against Munster as it was against South Africa.”

Secret to success

In recent seasons, Leinster have fallen short in the big games, losing to La Rochelle in the 2021 Champions Cup semi-final before back-to-back final defeats in the subsequent two editions of the competition.

They have also failed to win the first two editions of the United Rugby Championship, losing in the semi-finals on both occasions.

Meanwhile, South Africa won each of their 2023 World Cup knockout matches at the World Cup by a single point.

There is hope among Leinster fans that Nienaber’s arrival in Dublin will get the side over the line in the big games, but he explained that there is no quick solution.

“Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck,” he said.

“Sometimes you just need a big play, a charge down in a quarter-final from Cheslin Kolbe, and you win the game by a point. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes not, and I know that’s not what people want to hear, but I mean, that is the reality.

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

“Hopefully I can add value to that, but there is no silver bullet.


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