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'Don't get too arrogant': Springboks head coach Nienaber on his side's biggest challenge

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has said his side must build in improve in 2022 or risk a ‘disaster’ with just two seasons remaining until the World Cup.


South Africa will host Wales in July which will hopefully see home fans return to see the Springboks play for the first time since the 2019 Rugby Championship after last year’s Lions series was played in empty stadiums.

Nienaber’s first year as head coach of the Springboks saw a mixed return, with a 2-1 Lions series victory followed by a third place Rugby Championship after two losses to the Wallabies in Australia before an end of year tour with wins over Wales and Scotland.

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RugbyPass Offload | Episode 28
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South Africa were able to finish the year as World Rugby’s number one team after losing the tag briefly to New Zealand. However, the head coach was very cognisant of the teams in the packs chasing his side.

“The one thing I can tell you, is that if you want disaster you must fail to improvise, to build and improve” Nienaber said.

“The other teams are chasing, they are improving and they are looking to improvise.

“The big challenge for us is that we still stay creative, so we don’t get too arrogant and say, ‘listen we know how to win test matches, we know how to win a World Cup, we know how to end number one in the world after a year’.

“I think that is an arrogant way of looking at it, and that will be our challenge, that we don’t become arrogant like that and do stay creative.”


When reflecting on the 2021 season which saw eight test wins from 13 matches, Nienaber said it was ‘fairly average’ from a statistical point of view but pointed to the achievements the side made under tough circumstances.

“Obviously there are some things that we do that are working for us,” he said of the team’s results.

“I think we had a fairly average season, if you look percentages of games won. I do think if you look at the conditions under which we pulled off some victories.

“If you look at the British & Irish Lions series, the amount of preparation that we had going into that series, to pull off a victory there, I think the players performed exceptionally well.


“If you look at that victory we had against New Zealand, after 16 weeks away from our families in bio-secure bubbles, the massive mental strain on the team, to pull off a victory off the back of that environment for so long, was exceptional.

“It was an unbelievable push by the players to get that.

“Similar teams that are in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand and Australia at the back end of year tour where they were now 12 weeks, 14 weeks in bio-secure bubbles.

“It’s tough to stay positive, keep on pushing, you are not allowed to go out.

“In that sense, we did some things well but I think we will shoot ourselves in the foot if we stay arrogant and think we have all the answers and don’t innovate.”


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