Springboks Jacques Nienaber Springbok

Siya Kolisi with Jacques Nienaber. Photo: SA Rugby website

Springbok heroes will soon become foes

Springbok teammates are increasingly set to go head to head as the URC and Champions Cup action continues to heat up.

Springboks Jacques Nienaber Springbok

Siya Kolisi with Jacques Nienaber. Photo: SA Rugby website

A refocus on the club and franchise game in the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup will see Springbok teammates become foes in the coming months.

The arrival of Jacques Nienaber at Leinster on Monday, being photographed with coach Leo Cullen in his new role with the Irish giants, has upped the discussion levels on social media and that, coupled with a few other shifts – including the likes of Siya Kolisi’s debut at Racing 92 – will see Springbok heroes in other roles in the coming months.

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While watching Boks playing for overseas clubs and franchises is nothing new, the double move of Kolisi and Nienaber adds some extra spice to the forthcoming matches, as both were instrumental in the double Rugby World Cup winning streak that took South Africa to glory in Japan and France.

Nienaber’s intimate knowledge of South African players, their strengths, weaknesses and the mindset of the Bok players will be an invaluable addition to Leinster’s coaching corps, especially as the Irish powerhouse has missed out on trophy glory over the opening two seasons of the URC after dominating the old PRO14 league.

It will be fascinating to see how the local franchises, so used to working with Nienaber over the past six years, adapt to having him as a foe now with an Irish province.

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Springbok leaders making an impact across the globe

Nienaber helped plot the Springbok cause alongside Rassie Erasmus and as part of the mobi-unit for the most part of more than a decade, and as Springbok coach for the last four years.

Nienaber is likely to settle in as a key figure for Leinster, who sit just behind Franco Smith’s Glasgow Warriors in second spot on the URC log and are likely to see themselves as massive title contenders – both in the Champions’ Cup and URC this season.

And now he will be a massive threat to the SA franchises hopes of toppling Leinster’s league run and their own hopes of title glory in the Vodacom URC.

And while Kolisi’s Racing 92 don’t face the South African franchises in the opening rounds of the Champions’ Cup, they will pose a significant threat should they get to the playoff rounds of the competition.

Kolisi made his debut in Racing’s win over La Rochelle to put them top of the French Top 14 this weekend, with six wins in their opening eight games.

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Other key player movements

The other significant move from a RWC winner is, of course, Steven Kitshoff’s move to Ulster – a massive blow for the Stormers and a significant change for fans to get used to. Kitshoff made his debut for Ulster off the bench last week against Glasgow Warriors.

But in his case, while a prop can make a massive statement in the set pieces, he is unlikely to have such a profound effect as Nienaber, and will join a long list of Springboks or former Boks who are a threat for their clubs when they face South African opposition.

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In the Champions’ Cup, Kitshoff’s first opposition will be a familiar face in Bath, who have Johann van Graan coaching them and Thomas du Toit, his Bok team-mate in the front row.

Of course, other Boks that may face South African franchises across the Champions Cup include Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese at Leicester, Jean Kleyn (and RG Snyman when fit again) at Munster and Trevor Nyakane, who plays with Kolisi at Racing 92.

Leicester face the Stormers in their opening Champions Cup clash while Racing open against Andre Esterhuizen’s Harlequins on 9 December.

Other RWC winning Boks in France include Marvin Orie at Perpignan and Cobus Reinach at Montpellier. Perpignan face the Lions in their opening game of the EPCR Challenge Cup while the men from Joburg are drawn to play Montpellier in the third round of the Challenge Cup.

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