South Africa

‘Last Dance’ for Erasmus and Nienaber as World Cup set to get under way

SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber will have their ‘Last Dance’ in France during the Rugby World Cup starting on Friday.

Having hit it off from the time they met each other in the military in Bloemfontein in the early 1990s, Erasmus and Nienaber have grown to forge a lifetime friendship that’s lasted for decades.

The duo have had major success as a coaching unit; their journey has seen them coach together at the Cheetahs, Stormers, Munster and most recently the Springboks.

Nienaber to Leinster

Their tenure at the Boks has seen them win the Rugby World Cup, Rugby Championship and the British and Irish Lions series.

The end of this World Cup will see the two separate professionally as Nienaber will go on to join the Irish club Leinster and Erasmus will remain at SA Rugby. There are rumours though that Erasmus, too, might be headed to Ireland after the 2023 World Cup, though he is under contract with SA Rugby until 2025.

It is also believed other teams are chasing Erasmus, among them England.

Post World Cup will be the first time Erasmus and Nienaber won’t be in the same working environment in their career.

“We have come a long way. When Jacques made the decision four months ago (to move to Ireland), we had a good chat and braai,” Erasmus said when asked about the imminent departure of his long-time partner Nienaber.

“For South Africa, we got it out of the way quickly, Jacques did his contract; we got it out there, the players know about it, South Africa knows about it, we had our good chats about it,” he said.

Focus on Springboks

Erasmus and Nienaber have created a culture in the Springboks of making rugby the main priority, and they will now give their attention to defending the Webb Ellis Cup they won in Japan four years ago. Winning the World Cup for a record fourth time in France over the coming weeks will be the perfect end to their journey at the Boks.

“We want to end this working relationship (well), in the future we might tie up again,” Erasmus said.

“Now, it’s about focusing just on the Springboks and how we can give them the best possible chance to win this World Cup.

“Obviously, it would be fantastic if we can go our separate ways on a high – but there’s a couple of teams standing in our way,” he said.

The Springboks begin the defence of their title in just under a weeks’ time, next Sunday, against Scotland at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. The Boks are in Pool B alongside Ireland, Scotland, Tonga and Romania.

The tournament kicks off on Friday when France take on the All Blacks.