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Nienaber names his best and worst moments from Lions Test series

By Liam Heagney

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New Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has named his best and worst moments so far in the Lions Test series which draws to a close with next Saturday’s third Test decider in Cape Town. The South African team’s former defence coach was promoted to the head role in the wake of the 2019 World Cup success but the pandemic meant it wasn’t until now that he has cut his teeth in the throes of a Test series battle.

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Nienaber found himself caught up in the virus outbreak that led to the cancellation of a preparation match versus Georgia and affected availability for training, but he was proud with how the squad reacted to the challenges of pandemic rugby as well as their collective response following the first Test defeat to the Lions.

With Rassie Erasmus, the South African director of rugby, still very much playing a hands-on role with the team and falling foul of World Rugby with his comments, there have been questions as to who is really in charge of the Springboks but this speculation has been dismissed and Nienaber took a moment after naming his third Test team to reflect on the past month and what has especially stood out for him, both good and bad.  

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The explosive Rassie Erasmus video
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The explosive Rassie Erasmus video

“The best moments in this series was to see this team adapt,” he said. “With Covid and the times we are living in, rugby isn’t as straightforward as it was in the past. We said at the start of this campaign that the team that adapts to the changes is probably going to be the team that walks out victorious at the end of the day. 

“We have been in situations where we were isolated for four, five, six days, couldn’t get out of our hotel rooms, and then a bunch of us got Covid and were in isolation for ten days and we had to coach online. The best thing is how the team adapted to that. 

“Another highlight is after the first Test match, the loss, how the players got together in terms of being creative, having a proper review, making plans and the ownership they took and investment they had in the team, it was a highlight to see. That is the nice thing we are growing and that is probably one of the biggest evolutions we had to get to, to change the way we do things. We are becoming a more experienced side and that is pleasing to see. 

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“The bad things were the disruptions of not being able to work with the team. After the Georgia game, the last time I worked with the team was that Sunday and I didn’t work with them until after the game with the Bulls. Missing that coaching time with the group and not having a defensive session with them, I like being in the field, it is the highlight of my day and not having that for two weeks wasn’t nice.”

 

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Nienaber names his best and worst moments from Lions Test series

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