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'Very, very strange decisions': Ex-Bok coach blames refs for Nienaber's record

By Ben Smith
Siya Kolisi captain of South Africa and Jacques Nienaber coach of South Africa hug after The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on September 24, 2022 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber will step down from the post at the end of this year’s Rugby World Cup after four seasons in the job.


The former assistant under Erasmus took over in 2020 but his first Test in charge wasn’t until July 2021 after SARU pulled the Springboks out of all competition in 2020.

Nienaber’s Boks claimed the British & Irish Lions series 2-1 but went on a three-Test losing streak through the Rugby Championship to finish third in 2021.

The Springboks finished runners-up in the 2022 Championship behind the All Blacks after missing out on bonus points to Ian Foster’s team.

On the end-of-year-tour they suffered defeats to the top two ranked nations Ireland and France.

Former assistant Swys de Bruin defended Nienaber’s 61.5 per cent win record with the Springboks on SuperSport’s Final Whistle, calling the  record ‘subjective’ and claimed many of the Test matches were ‘trials’.

“Those stats are very subjective,” de Bruin claimed.

“You’ve got trial games, some games you need to win, that game we might not.”

The ex-Lions coach was prepared to draw comparisons with football managers, claiming a 60 per cent record in football is successful.


Football club teams play nearly 40 games a season and a ‘draw’ is a far more common outcome, resulting in a lower overall win rate.

“I had an interesting look at top football guys. A 61 per cent win ratio is not too bad,” he said.

“If you win 60 per cent or more of your games, you are successful.

De Bruin also said the absence of ‘minor’ playing nations made it tough to have a higher win rate, and praised his work for orchestrating defeats of the All Blacks.


“I remember 2018-19, we never played minor teams, there were no Canadas and Americas involved.

“You play the big boys game in, game out. That’s the different stat.

“If you look at what Jacque has done with Rassie, especially Jacques’ defence, we’ve beat the All Blacks.

“We drew with them away [in 2019], and beaten them away too.

“We’ve pumped the English in Bloem and Ellis Park [in 2018]. We went overseas we got Scotland, the French there.

“He’s done well in the right Tests.”

Under Erasmus the Springboks won one from four Tests against the All Blacks while Nienaber has improved on that mark with two from four.

Former Bok coach Nick Mallett sensationally claimed that the side only lost certain Tests due to calls that went against the side.

He suggested that the officials were not impartial by suggesting that they were not ‘absolutely fair’.

“I’ll add to that, there were a number of games last year we should have won, and we didn’t for some refereeing reasons,” Mallett claimed.

“Had the referees been absolutely fair, we would have ended up winning a couple of games.

“I still say in the games we played against France and Ireland last year, they were two great, great performances by the Springboks.

“We come on the wrong side of those performances because of some very, very strange decisions in the last 10 minutes.

“We get those two wins, suddenly it’s incredible, 18 wins out of 26, it looks very good.

“What about Australia away? When everyone agreed they should’ve been penalised 15 times more than they were.

“There are issues around the refereeing of our Springbok team last year that have impacted Jacques Nienaber’s results.”





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finn 408 days ago

SA are getting worse because their team is too old.

They are going to fall at the quarter finals at the world cup this year, and then immediately have to begin a complete rebuild. SA fans are in for at least 2 or 3 years of pain but will ultimately have to face facts that Nienaber will have handed over a poisoned chalice to to whoever takes over.

Donovan 409 days ago

South Africa always crying foul...Running out of excuses for their pathetic record as world champions..Every team plays under the same set of rules..Play the game as blown by the ref..They lost as a result of Rassie being the coach..Always pulling the string..Nienaber cannot make any decisions..Rassie appointed himself as coach..

Dries 409 days ago

It is not all referees that undermine the Springboks. It is markedly those who are in the realm of the british crown. Either it is intuitively embedded in their colonial minds that renders it unthinkably that people from Africa can be better than the british or their pawns, or the ant SA refereeing is by design and decision that the Springboks are too abrisive and dominant for the anglophone sissy boys. Matches between any anglophone country and othher teams such as SA Argentina, France etc should not be refereed by an anglophone referee.

John 409 days ago

What a load of tripe. South Africa turning into the cry baby sooks of world rugby.

Guy 409 days ago

The only solution for SAs to stop complaining is to have their matches refereed by South African referees !

Paul 409 days ago

So my great "friend" watches SA rugby shows! Hopefully he can learn something.....
I don't know what is worse: Ben Smith posturing as a journalist or Nick Mallet's comment....?
Go Boks

isaac 409 days ago

Fiji, samoa, Tonga are always crying foul, and SA - world champions still want to play on

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