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'I truly respect him': Stormers defence coach has his say on Nienaber's impact

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The significance of World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber’s value on a team and the sport itself cannot be amplified enough.

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Stormers defence Norman Laker was the latest figure to pay tribute to the former Springbok head coach, who along with Rassie Erasmus masterminded South Africa’s back-to-back World Cup success.

On Saturday, when the Stormers host Leinster in the United Rugby Championship Round 15 match, Laker, who is one of the top defensive coaches in South Africa, and Nienaber will put their friendship to the side and put their respective expertise on display.

“I know Jacques Nienaber [Leinster senior coach] quite well,” Laker said, adding: “We come a long way since 2007.

“At the end of 2007, he and Rassie Erasmus came down and took over at the Stormers. I was at the Western Province Rugby Institute and then later on I started coaching the WP Under-21 team and he was the defence coach at the Stormers.

“So we rubbed shoulders a couple of times and I learned quite a lot from him.

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“We worked together before he left for Munster and I took over at the Stormers in 2016.

“When he came back to South Africa as the Springbok defence coach, the majority of the Stormers team was involved with the national team so I just thought why not work with him?

“I invited him to Stormers training on a weekly basis and we mixed-and-match ideas – I took some from him and he took some from me – and we got to a nice system that obviously benefitted us as the Stormers.

“He could have easily kept all his information and ideas to himself, but he is not that type of person.

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“I truly respect him for what he achieved as a coach as well as who he is as a person.”

Laker noted that Leinster have reaped the benefits since Nienaber’s arrival at the Irish side in November.

“Leinter’s defence was always passive, tending not to get off the line.

“But the game against Ulster where they lost, they were flying off the line. Freddy Burns was putting in kicks behind them. They were creating a system but that was at the beginning stages of Jacques’ tenure.

“But when you look at the game against La Rochelle [40-13 Champions Cup win] you could really see the impact. Before that they suffered a defeat to the Top 14 side but this time they beat them well.”

Turning his attention towards his own team’s defence following Saturday’s unexpected 21-27 defeat to Ospreys, Laker has called for more intensity for what could be a top-four defining match.

“It was very disappointing, especially my department,” Laker said, adding: “Conceding four tries at home is quite a tough pill to swallow.

“I wasn’t happy with our intensity on defence.

“Normally we are a well-oiled defensive unit, but on Saturday we were just in drips and drabs and in this competition, you can not underestimate anyone.

“I’m not saying we underestimated Ospreys, but the defence was not the same as the previous weeks.

“However it happened. We talked about it and hopefully, we will fix it by Saturday.”

 

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