Jacques Nienaber

Jacques Nienaber was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is a a highly accomplished figure in the world of rugby.

He attended Grey College in Bloemfontein for high school before going on to at the University of the Free State, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy.

Using his professional education, Nienaber kicked-off his rugby career as a physiotherapist for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and the Cats Super Rugby from 1997 to 2005. He then transitioned to become a strength and conditioning coach for the Cheetahs from 2004 to 2007. It was his hands-on expertise and experience in coaching which led him to various roles as a defence coach for teams such as Western Province, the Stormers, SA Schools, the Junior Springboks, and ultimately the Springboks.

Here’s what Rassie Erasmus says*:  “I started working with Jacques as his reputation as a rugby physiotherapist was growing. He and I first met in the army, after which Jacques went to the University of the Free State to study physiotherapy.  I met him again when he helped out with the Cheetahs senior team on a few occasions and our paths re-crossed in 1999 when I went to the Cats where Jacques was the full-time physio.”

In 2004 Jacques did a strength and conditioning course and became the S&C coach at the Cheetahs, taking the place of Derek Coetzee who had joined Jake White’s Springbok team. Rassie continues “when you lie on a physio bed for an hour, you chat a lot. Jacques and I analysed rugby, and I was impressed by how much he knew. When I became the Cheetahs’ head coach, Jacques was my S&C coach. He roamed alongside the field and could tell a player anything from how to tackle, where to tackle, when to tackle, who to tackle. He understood all the calls, because he was with us in all our training sessions. He and I started working more closely together and he acted almost like an assistant coach.

In 2007, he joined me at the Stormers, as S&C coach and then as defence coach. He showed great interest in my computer analysis of the games, and I could see he was a natural. Jacques stayed with the Stormers when I left to become the high-performance manager at SARU, and when I joined the Boks as a technical adviser at the 2011 World Cup, Jacques joined us.”

Nienaber’s career reached new heights when he became the assistant coach for the Springboks in 2018 and eventually took on the role of head coach in 2020. Under his leadership, the Springboks achieved incredible success, including winning the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and 2023, as well as the British & Irish Lions Series in 2021.

In 2024, Nienaber made the transition to become the senior coach for Leinster, showcasing his continued dedication to the sport and his drive for excellence. His impressive track record solidifies his reputation as a formidable force in the world of rugby coaching.

*courtesy Pan Macmillan publishers from the book “Rassie – Stories of Life and Rugby” written with David O’Sullivan.