2023 Connacht Rugby vs Leinster Rugby

World Cup Winner Jacques Nienaber Already Making Impact With Leinster

World Cup Winner Jacques Nienaber Already Making Impact With Leinster

Discover how Jacques Nienaber, South Africa's World Cup-winning coach, transforms Leinster's defense ahead of Champions Cup clash with La Rochelle.

Dec 1, 2023 by Philip Bendon
World Cup Winner Jacques Nienaber Already Making Impact With Leinster

South Africa's World Cup-winning head coach, Jacques Nienaber, wasted no time in leaving his mark on Leinster during his first day of training, according to backrow Scott Penny. 

The 51-year-old, fresh off leading the Springboks to their second consecutive World Cup victory, officially took on the role of senior coach at Leinster this week, succeeding Stuart Lancaster. 

Sharing insights into Nienaber's initial involvement with the team, Penny said, "He was out on the pitch and getting stuck in. He got here and introduced himself and had chats with lots of people. 

"Everyone thinks it is really good. He was out on the pitch for the first time, and you can already see him stamping his mark.”

Nienaber's responsibilities at Leinster include working alongside head coach Leo Cullen, and his proactive approach during his first interactions with the team has been well-received. 

Penny highlighted that Nienaber introduced himself to everyone and engaged in conversations, fostering a positive atmosphere within the team. 

The South African coach's successful track record with the Springboks, particularly in managing defensive breakdowns and building a formidable defense, has sparked optimism among the Leinster players. 

"Hopefully, we can learn a bit of stuff from him with regards to defensive breakdowns but also learning how they have made their defense so good over the last few years," Penny added.

Penny, who captained Leinster in its recent United Rugby Championship game against Glasgow, expressed his admiration for the physicality displayed by the South African team during its World Cup campaigns. He believes this physicality, combined with the players' size and defensive prowess, contributed significantly to their success. 

"They are obviously big demons of men, and you can see that physicality helps them in their defense," Penny said. "Obviously, having size helps with their line speed and how impressive they are in the contact and at the breakdown - it makes them a real force to be reckoned with. 

"Our defensive breakdown has been pretty good, but we have had a fair few turnovers and been slowing things down. That is probably the main area we put a lot of focus on, so it is great to have Jacques in to help with that."

Leinster, in second place in the United Rugby Championship, faces upcoming challenges against Connacht in Galway and a rematch with Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup. 

Penny acknowledges the difficulty of the fixtures, especially against Connacht, which is unbeaten at home and coming off a successful tour of South Africa. 

"They [Connacht] are going well this season and are unbeaten at home," Penny said. "It will be a big challenge going down there. They are coming off a big tour of South Africa, as well, so will be very tight together, those bonds will be there. 

"It will be a tough fixture. They have a lot of ex-Leinster players in there, so they know our details, so it is important that we get on top of it right from the start."

With a focus on improving defensive breakdowns, Penny sees Nienaber's expertise as a valuable asset. 

The coach's experience as an assistant coach with South Africa, and his prior coaching role at Munster under Rassie Erasmus, position him well to contribute to Leinster's defensive strategies. 

Nienaber's swift integration into the Leinster coaching setup signals a promising chapter for the team. 

As they navigate challenging fixtures, the influence of the World Cup-winning coach is expected to enhance the already impressive Leinster setup with a view to getting them over the line in both the URC and Investec Champions Cup.