Leinster specifically headhunted Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber after being “impressed” with him and getting exceptionally good feedback about him as coach.
Leinster coach Leo Cullen praised Nienaber and revealed that they had followed his career since he was Rassie Erasmus’s assistant coach at Munster and see him as an integral part of their coaching team going forward.
Cullen said he had “admired” what Nienaber had done with the Springboks and believes he is a “great coach” who can add a lot of value to Leinster.
The announcement sent shockwaves through Springbok rugby this weekend as Nienaber chose to leave after the Rugby World Cup.
“We admire greatly what Jacques has been doing and we’ve been aware of him since his time at Munster. We’ve watched with the Springboks going on to win a World Cup. Felix Jones is someone we’ve remained reasonably friendly with over the last couple of years, because Felix came through the Leinster Academy and we played together at one point of time,” Cullen said after his side had beaten the Lions in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship match.
?? | Leo Cullen spoke to Leinster Rugby TV on the announcement that Jacques Nienaber will be joining Leinster Rugby after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.#FromTheGroundUp #WelcomeJacques pic.twitter.com/LndEQ6SAUz— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) April 15, 2023
“We’ve always followed their progress. Jacques is someone I’ve really admired, great coach and all the feedback we’ve received on him is that he is a great coach, and an outstanding man as well.
“Probably the man part is the thing we’re most attracted to because you want great characters in our group and he is someone who has delivered at the highest level of the game. I talked with Jacques a little while back and we went back and forth. It is a fantastic appointment for us as a club because of the experience he has.
“We have a huge amount of respect for what the Springboks have achieved, with the World Cup and Lions tour as well. We’re really excited and delighted to secure his signature post World Cup.
“The short term - he will be very focused for South Africa, but when he does come to Leinster, we hope he will give a big lift, because he is someone who I admire greatly as a coach but more importantly as a great man as well.”
Cullen said Nienaber would “challenge” players and because of the multiple fronts that teams have to navigate nowadays, he would be a key part of their new coaching team.
“It’s something different, isn’t it? Because we have a lot of players that come through the Leinster system, through clubs and schools, and there is a lot of work that comes in before guys arrive in the building.
“Stuart brought so much experience - so it’s not just the coaching point, but all the off-field experience that he brought to the table, leadership etc. And with Jacques it is the same. Robin McBryde joined from Wales after the last World Cup and also missed the early part of the season.
“It will be a similar type of appointment and Robin was with Wales for a dozen years, another great appointment, and a great man. That’s what I’m attracted to most, is the character of the people. We have Andrew Goodman as well, who was with the Crusaders and played with Leinster.
“As a coaching group those three senior coaches as well will be there. We also have Sean O’Brien who is a young coach, recently retired, although he is still playing club rugby, recently retired from professional rugby. He is a pretty iconic player for Leinster.
“He is someone we want to continue investing in as well, so the likes of Jacques will play a pretty big role in terms of trying to bring him along.
“Because there are so many moving parts to our season, and because the players want to be challenged all the time. We want our best guys to be able to stay in the club for their careers, because that creates that stable, strong legacy.
“When you get the opportunity to bring in a new coach - because Stuart is heading to Racing, the decision was made earlier in the season. We have had a bit of time to plan and see what we are after.”
Nienaber will leave for Dublin after the World Cup.