Stick or Davids may succeed Nienaber as Springboks coach

rugby16 April 2023 12:35| © AFP

South Africa assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids are the favourites to succeed Jacques Nienaber as head coach when he quits after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Nienaber announced this weekend he was moving to European giants Leinster after the global showpiece in France from 8 September.

He cited undisclosed "personal reasons" for the decision to leave the reigning world champions after succeeding Rassie Erasmus, now the South African director of rugby, in 2020.

The announcement took South Africans by surprise as there had been no hints that Nienaber was planning to leave one of the most prestigious posts in world rugby.

All 14 post-apartheid Springbok coaches have been South African, starting with a short, unsuccessful stay by John Williams in 1992.

Several South African Rugby Union insiders told AFP on Sunday that they expected Nienaber to be succeeded by a local.

They added that Erasmus, who transformed the Springboks from a laughing stock to 2019 world champions in two seasons, would have a major say in who takes over.

Stick, Davids and Stormers head coach John Dobson were the names repeatedly mentioned by the insiders as the likeliest successors.

The good work of South African Franco Smith in revitalising the Glasgow Warriors was noted, with some believing he could become part of a future team, but not as head coach.

Hiring a non-South African like recently dismissed Australia coach Dave Rennie or former Ireland star Ronan O'Gara, a Champions Cup winner with La Rochelle, was considered "highly unlikely".


"It will not happen – the next Springboks coach will be a South African," insisted one insider, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not an official spokesperson.

Should former sevens star Stick, 38, be chosen it would complete an amazing turnaround as he was dumped as a Springbok assistant during the disastrous 2016-2017 stint of Allister Coetzee.

Erasmus recalled him and hailed his contribution after the 2019 World Cup campaign, which culminated in a 20-point final triumph over England in Japan.

After the thankless task of guiding the under-resourced and cash-strapped Southern Kings in Super Rugby, Davids, 55, became part of the Springbok set-up following the last World Cup.

Stick works with the backs and Davids with the forwards and both reportedly have contracts until 2027.

Dobson, 53, has worked wonders at the financially troubled Stormers, highlighted by a United Rugby Championship final victory over the Bulls from Pretoria last season.

"Apart from the Springbok coaches, John is head and shoulders above any other contenders. The Stormers players love him," said an official.

South Africa begin their World Cup countdown in July with Rugby Championship matches against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, who they meet again in a warm-up match.

The Springboks move to Europe in August for tests against Wales and New Zealand before tackling Scotland in their opening World Cup pool B match on 10 September.

They also play Romania, Ireland and Tonga and the nations finishing first and second in the final standings advance to the quarterfinals.