Mon, 25 May 2020
Fair in Johannesburg/Lanseria

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth says Jacques Nienaber was a popular choice as new head coach among the players.

Nienaber, previously the team's defence guru, has taken over the head coaching responsibilities from Rassie Erasmus, who has taken a back seat to focus on his director or rugby role at SA Rugby.

In an interview with Netwerk24, Etzebeth said he has no doubt that all the players from last year's victorious World Cup squad would have picked Nienaber as the new coach.

"Jacques is my coach. So any player will have to be careful what they answer!," Etzebeth chuckled, before adding: "But I can honestly say that all 31 guys in that group would have mentioned Jacques' name if they were asked who the next Bok coach should be," Etzebeth said.

Erasmus and Nienaber have a long history, having first met in the army before crossing paths at the University of the Free State's Shimlas team where Nienaber was the physiotherapist and Erasmus the captain.

When Erasmus became coach of the Free State Cheetahs, he appointed Nienaber as strength and conditioning coach, with the latter later shifting his focus to the team's defensive structures.

Nienaber followed Erasmus to the Stormers and also Munster in Ireland, before starting at the Springboks in 2018.

"He worked under Rassie for long and knows exactly what it takes to be a head coach. Ever since I started working with Jacques at the Stormers in 2012, it was unbelievable for me how he got the best out of players. His defence strategies are at another level," Etzebeth added.

Etzebeth, who currently plies his trade at French club Toulon, is back in South Africa as rugby takes a hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The burly lock said in an interview over the weekend that he was "grateful" to his French club for allowing him to return home before South Africa went into a 21-day lockdown.

The 28-year-old has been on Toulon's books since last year, having played for the Stormers between 2012 and 2019.

The World Cup winner has played 85 Tests since making his international debut against England in Durban in 2012.

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