Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Nienaber may work with Boks
Cape Town - The announcement on Monday by Western Province that defence guru Jacques Nienaber has been offered a three-year extension to his contract with the union does not rule out the well sourced speculation that he will be joining Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok management team.
While it has been written that Nienaber, Under-20 coach and Vodacom Cup coach John Dobson and assistants Matthew Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck have signed three-year extensions, this looks like an instance where journalists haven’t read the press releases properly. The press release specifically states that the coaches have “been offered”, not that the deal had been signed.
Coetzee is the one coach who has definitely signed with WP and has confirmed that he has turned down an offer to work with Meyer.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Stormers coach had his employers over a barrel in the sense that he was being sought after by Meyer at a time when the union has also just lost the services of their director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
The former Bok assistant demanded more control from the union - and he got it. While he is not doubling up as head coach and director of rugby, as at one stage seemed probable, he is effectively filling both jobs as the high performance director being appointed to work with him will be fulfilling an administrative role.
This is a potentially perilous situation for the Stormers as it means that Coetzee is going to be stretched.
It was because of the difficulties of fulfilling the roles away from the team while at the same time dealing with the media and preparing the side for the next game that prompted Erasmus to separate the functions two years ago.
But as WP president Tobie Titus said at the press conference, the buck now publicly rests with Coetzee when it comes to all rugby related matters at WP and the Stormers, from recruiting right down to the succession planning from age-group level.
However while Coetzee told the media that he was pleased “this matter has been put to rest as we are all committed to WP”, time will still tell whether that is in fact so.
Nienaber is an important part of the management team, and you just have to look at the Stormers’ defence stats to see that, so you can see why the union would be keen to get him to sign on the dotted line amidst fears that he may be become marginalised within the Stormers coaching group now that Erasmus has left.
However nothing has been finalised yet and we could still see Nienaber, and possibly Erasmus too, working with the Springboks when the international season kicks off in June. If Erasmus joins it will be as technical director or analyst, with the sticking point at the moment apparently being the role Meyer intends for him.
It is also no secret that Erasmus is being coveted by Nick Mallett should the former Italy and Bok coach take over the England reins later in the year, but for Erasmus it all depends on the designation, with first prize for him being a position where he would be in the coaches box on match day and not just one of the back-room boys.