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The Jacques Nienaber warning with Leinster hunting a trophy double

By URC SA
Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leinster still have some way to go to achieve their prized double of Champions Cup/United Rugby Championship titles, something that has eluded them since 2018.

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Last weekend they fought off the fast-finishing Northampton and will now face Toulouse in a battle of giants for European honours on May 25.

But they are far from where they need to be, according to senior coach Jacques Nienaber, who joined the Irish province after leading the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory last October.

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Before their final at Tottenham, they have a pair of URC games to play as they look to retake the top spot which they ceded last month to Glasgow, starting at home to the Ospreys next Saturday at The RDS.

Pole position was lost following heavy defeats on their two-game tour to South Africa. However, while there are concerns about some of their recent performances, Nienaber has insisted Leinster will get better in the weeks ahead.

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“We showed there is definitely stuff that we can improve on in attack,” he said with his team turning its attention back to league action after seeing off the Saints 20-17 at Croke Park.

“There is definitely some stuff that we can improve on in our kicking game. There is a lot of stuff we can improve on in our defence. There is a lot of stuff that we can improve on in our set-piece – we’re not the finished product at all.

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“In fairness, when we reviewed the Northampton game with the players, they said, ‘There is a lot that we can get better at’. As a coaching group, we know that and as a playing group, we know that.

“We have got seven weeks until the end of the season and we have got seven weeks to make sure we get better at those things, but we are not the finished product at all.

“Were there things that we could have done better? Yes. Were there things that we did well? Yes. The way we closed out the game in the last four minutes was good.

“I just think rugby is like life. There are ebbs and flows. You’re not feeling brilliant every day for 50 years. Some days you feel down. Some days you feel great.

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“That’s life, and rugby is like life. Sometimes the momentum is going with you and sometimes it’s going against you. It’s just how you absorb that. There will be opportunities. If you don’t take them, they will punish you. It’s as simple as that.”

Nienaber explained that the expectation a team like the Saints would simply roll over in a major semi-final wasn’t realistic. “I mean, has any team buried them?

“They are not a team that gets put away quickly. They are not top of the Premiership and scored the most Premiership tries for nothing.

“There were maybe opportunities that we had that we could have done better with. We looked at that and we have to fix that, so there is a lot to fix from our side.

“Playing in a semi-final, you must get over the line and it’s not going to be perfect. That’s knockout rugby for you. There are no bonus points for knockout, semis, finals. You just must do everything in your power to win.

“It will be the same when we go to the URC quarter-final. This weekend, it’s still bonus points and points difference up for grabs. But in the knockouts, it’s purely just to win the game.”

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