RWC2023: Euro coaches and Pro16 factors
REACTION: The strategic decision to appoint two European-based coaches to assist may just prove to be the masterstroke that could help South Africa defend their World Cup title.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, speaking after the draw for the 2023 World Cup in France was made, said the roles of Irish consultant Felix Jones and England-based Andy Edwards will be crucial to their cause.
The defending World Cup champions, South Africa, will face Ireland, Scotland, a nation from Asia/Pacific and another qualifier from Europe in Pool B.
Nienaber was excited about the prospect of an expanded Pro16 – which would afford the South African-based players the opportunity to experience European competitions and conditions – as well as playing against Irish and Scottish players on a regular basis.
However, it is the large number of players based abroad that needs attention.
The likes of Damian de Allende, Lodewyk de Jager, Francois de Klerk, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Albertus Smith and Rudolph Snyman are all members of the World Cup-winning squad who no longer play in South Africa.
That makes the input of Jones and Edwards even more important.
“With such a large number of our squad [players] playing abroad, it was a strategic decision from us to appoint Felix [Jones] and get Andy [Edwards – Head of Athletic Performance for the Springboks] on board,” Nienaber told a virtual media briefing – following Wednesday’s draw in France.
“They [the players based abroad] can get serviced by our coaches over there,” said the Boks coach, who was involved with Irish Province Munster as a defence expert for two years.
“Felix will play a massive role for us, servicing our players abroad.
“Having coached there [Ireland] before, I think it would be very good for us,” he said.
(Continue below video … )
Not just Nienaber, but Ireland coach Andy Farrell and Scotland mentor Gregor Townsend also welcomed the prospect of playing in an expanded Pro16.
It will add some spice to Pool B at the 2023 World Cup – which will feature those three nations.
Nienaber said people underestimate the quality of the Pro14.
“I was unbelievably surprised when we first started coaching [at Munster],” the Bok said of a competition that was still the Pro12.
“I would say [it was] one of the fiercest contested competitions in all facets – every set-piece, breakdown, skill level.
“So I think it would be a big step for us [SA teams].
“For our local franchises, Super Rugby is a little bit different.
“It will be a big step up for them in terms of the tactics and the weather, the different playing surfaces, different referees from different countries that you have to manage.
“I think it’s probably, and I’m not talking down any other competitions, but I think it’s very close to Test match rugby.
“I’m super excited for our players to join a Pro16 or Pro14, it will be phenomenal.”