Nienaber was appointed as Springbok coach earlier this year, taking over from Director of Rugby, Erasmus, and in the latest episode of the SA Rugby Podcast, he reveals what the duo talked about before they returned to South Africa in 2018.
The 47-year-old Nienaber, an avid runner who has completed the Two Oceans Marathon, also talks about his career in coaching, the breakdown law application under the new interpretations in New Zealand, and the positives from the COVID-19 lockdown.
But what about those reservations he had about the Boks’ ability when he and Erasmus first discussed returning to South Africa from Munster, where they coached in 2016 and 2017?
“Rassie was 100% convinced we would win the World Cup,” said Nienaber.
“I knew there was exceptional talent coming through – because I worked with the SA U20s and SA Schools sides until 2016 – but I thought that less than two years to prepare was pushing the envelope in terms of making changes and aligning to be competitive in a World Cup.”
“Earlier in my career, I worked with experienced coaches, but Rassie was just a little bit different. Very practical and out-of-the-box are probably the two words that best describe him.”
The new Springbok coach, who went to the Rugby World Cup in 2011 as defence consultant, also explained how special it is for him to be part of the Springbok set-up.
“Everyone knows the Springboks, but until you’re inside and part of that team, you don’t know what it’s all about,” said Nienaber.
"Only when you’re outside that set-up, you realise how much you’ve missed it, so it was a very emotional return for me to come back from Munster and join the Springboks again – a massive honour and privilege.”
The first nine podcasts – also available on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts – feature Rassie Erasmus; Branco du Preez; Cheslin Kolbe and Handre Pollard; Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx and Schalk Brits; Joel Stransky; Jurie Roux; Mark Andrews; Francois Pienaar; and Francois Louw, and can be accessed here.