Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The recent defensive lapses on the away leg of the Tri-Nations have prompted Springbok coach Peter de Villiers to lean on the knowledge and know-how of the best defensive team in the recent Super 14.
Stormers and Western Province officials have confirmed that defence coach Jacques Nienaber has been drawn into the national training camp currently being conducted in Johannesburg ahead of the away leg of the Tri-Nations.
The Stormers boasted by far the best defensive record in the recent Super 14 season, conceding just 18 tries in 15 matches. WP, who are the Stormers in all but name, have continued that trend into the current domestic campaign. They top the Currie Cup log with the best for and against record in the competition by some distance.
The Springboks were the best defensive team in the world under previous coach Jake White and it was defence that they built their successful 2007 World Cup campaign around. The basic tenets of the White system were retained into last year’s British and Irish Lions series and Tri-Nations campaign, with the Boks’ massive defensive effort playing a big part in their successes.
However, this year the Bok defence has been porous, leaking 10 tries in three matches, and four apiece in the two matches against the All Blacks. Basic errors such as missed first time and one on one tackles have been at the heart of the malaise.
But there have also been suggestions that an adjustment to the defensive system might be required under the new law interpretations, which have played into the hands of the quick-tempo New Zealand and Australian approach.
The Stormers and WP both boasted their excellent defensive records under the current law interpretations, so clearly their coaching staff knows a thing or two about the business of defending. It is wise then that the Boks have called in Nienaber, who has learned the trade off Rassie Erasmus, the WP senior professional coach, with whom he has travelled a long road.
He started out working with the Cheetahs as a physio when Erasmus was a player, then was employed by Erasmus when he was coaching as a fitness adviser. He has subsequently become respected as the best defensive coach on the local circuit. He took the defensive coaching job on himself this season, but shared it with Brendan Venter in 2009.
It is unclear at this stage the extent that Nienaber will be involved with the Boks and WP sources say that he will be back with WP during the course of this week. WP play the Bulls on Saturday and it is understood that not everyone in the Province camp is happy with the possibility that some of their defensive secrets be exported.