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The Nienaber verdict on Jerry Flannery coaching Springboks' defence

By URC SA
Jacques Nienaber (Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images)

Last week’s appointment of former Ireland international and Harlequins defence coach Jerry Flannery to the Springboks set-up has been given the seal of approval by former South Africa boss Jacques Nienaber.

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Flannery ostensibly replaces Nienaber, who was head coach but also headed up the Boks’ defence when they clinched back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles. Nienaber opted to take up a position as senior coach at Leinster and the world champions have moved swiftly to revise their management.

SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who was head coach when they won the World Cup in 2019, will be head coach through to 2027 with South Africa looking to win an unprecedented third World Cup title in a row.

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Erasmus last week appointed former Japan assistant coach Tony Brown, whom he coached at the Stormers, and Flannery to his coaching team. The Boks also lost Felix Jones, who has moved to the role of England defence coach.

Both Flannery and Jones were the assistant coaches to Erasmus and Nienaber during the duo’s stint at Munster before they returned home in 2018 to take up the Springboks coaching roles.

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Speaking at a Leinster media briefing ahead of next Saturday’s URC game versus Benetton, Nienaber has now revealed that Flannery was at a Boks camp when they were last year preparing for the defence of their World Cup title in France.

“Obviously he would be very familiar with the way that Rassie would do stuff because it will be very similar to how we did things when we were at Munster. Jerry actually spent some time with us in the World Cup preparation. He was there a week or two with the Boks.

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“He understands how the environment operates and the players would know him. He won’t be unfamiliar to them. He actually helped us a little bit with the hookers. He added value with the lineout throws, him being an international hooker himself. Just adding things that he saw.”

Nienaber reckoned that the appointments of Flannery and Brown will serve the Springboks well, believing they will not only add value to the Springboks cause but they will also help take them to a new level. “It’s a good opportunity for Jerry and he will be good for the Boks. Both of those appointments, him and Tony Brown, are excellent appointments. They will add value to the team.”

Nienaber added that he had seen a lot of Flannery’s work as defence coach. “When we did our club visits of the abroad players, Harlequins was one of the clubs that we visited. They were always open to us being there, so watching their training sessions, gym sessions, being in their team meetings – I saw a lot of Jerry’s work as a defence coach there and he will be a good fit for South Africa.”

Nienaber, meanwhile, described Ireland’s performance in keeping Italy scoreless in their Guinness Six Nations game last Sunday as beautiful. “I thought it was beautiful. I texted the lads afterwards; I just said that zero does look beautiful,” he said.

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“For any defence coach it’s a thing of beauty, but obviously the pressure you put on from an attacking point of view creates that. If you have scoreboard pressure like Ireland had, they [Italy] have to take more risks and from deeper, which probably puts you in a better position. So it is always a thing of beauty, a zero.”

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