European Professional Club Rugby

'You Have To Trust Them With It' - Nienaber Discusses Leinster's Final Loss

'You Have To Trust Them With It' - Nienaber Discusses Leinster's Final Loss

Former Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber discusses his Leinster team's Investec Champions Cup final loss to Stade Toulousain at Tottenham Hotspur.

May 28, 2024 by Philip Bendon
'You Have To Trust Them With It' - Nienaber Discusses Leinster's Final Loss

Former Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has asserted that Leinster has not compromised its renowned attacking prowess in favor of a stronger defense since his arrival in December. 

Known for his defensive expertise, Nienaber joined Leinster after leading the Springboks to consecutive World Cup victories in 2019 and 2023.

Leinster's defensive tactics have visibly intensified under Nienaber, with the team employing a more aggressive defensive line. 

This strategic shift occasionally has borne fruit, most notably in the team's recent Investec Champions Cup final against Toulouse. 

Leinster managed to keep Toulouse without a try until extra time, restricting its opponents to scant scoring chances. However, the Leinster attack faltered, converting only 16 points from 17 entries into Toulouse’s 22.


Despite criticism suggesting that Leinster's new defensive focus has detracted from its attacking game, Nienaber refutes any claims of altering the team’s training regimen. 

“When I got here, I thought there were two ways of doing things,” Nienaber explained. “You can impose your methods or integrate them into the existing system. I chose the latter because changing everything mid-season for one person didn’t make sense.”

Nienaber described his seamless integration into Leinster’s established routines. 

“I literally just slotted into their workflow," he said. "The lads showed me where they usually address defense, whether it’s from scrums, lineouts, kick-chases or general play, and I adapted to that.”

As Leinster continues its preparations ahead of its clash with Connacht in their final regular-season game of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Leinster is guaranteed a home quarterfinal. However, they need favorable results elsewhere to secure a top-2 finish following a recent loss to Ulster.

Injury concerns persist for Leinster, too.

Garry Ringrose remains doubtful as he recovers from a shoulder injury, while Jason Jenkins is sidelined with a knee injury sustained against Toulouse. Additionally, Hugo Keenan will miss at least two matches, as he joins the Ireland Sevens for the World SVNS Series in Madrid.

Reflecting on their Champions Cup final performance, Nienaber critiqued his team’s breakdown work and error count but refrained from second-guessing the in-game decisions. 

Leinster’s aggressive choice to go for the corner, rather than take penalty kicks, particularly in the first quarter, has been scrutinized in hindsight.

“That is a decision they make on the field, and you have to trust them with it,” Nienaber emphasized. “In hindsight, decisions always seem clear-cut. If you miss kicks, you’re told you should have gone for touch, and vice versa. It boils down to the players making a decision on the pitch. If they score a try, it’s the right decision.”

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