Former Leinster centre James Downey believes that Jacques Nienaber can take the Irish province to the next level this season.
The 51-year-old joins the Dubliners after leading the Springboks to the 2023 Rugby World Cup title.
Faltered in big games
He now heads to Ireland hoping to bring that mentality to Leinster, who have faltered when it has come to the latter stages of big competitions.
Despite being favourites in pretty much every match they play, Leo Cullen’s men have not won anything since 2021, while their last Champions Cup success came in 2018.
That could change with Nienaber at the helm, who will no doubt add a steely edge to their defence having led the way in that department in the international game.
“Defence wins championships,” Downey told the House of Rugby podcast. “You can have the best attack in the world but if you can keep a team out, it’s priceless.
“And with Jacques coming in, if you look at the Glasgow game in week one, Leinster’s defence was pretty poor, again, against Edinburgh, fine for most of the game but when they make a few changes, Edinburgh come back into it.
“Jacques won’t have that. Defence is an attitude so he’s going to be working on the player’s mindsets, being ruthless out there, not letting teams get over for easy scores.”
Replacing Stuart Lancaster
Nienaber comes in as a replacement for Stuart Lancaster, who left the Irishmen to join French outfit Racing 92 as their head coach.
Lancaster was highly regarded within the Leinster set-up and revolutionised the way they played, but ultimately that did not show in terms of silverware over the last two seasons.
Downey believes that, as well as his technical expertise, Nienaber will bring a relentlessness to the Dublin-based outfit in the Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship.
“Win by 40 points, that’s what he’s going to want,” he added.
“And that can only make this Leinster team strong. Coming into these big game fixtures that they’ve lost by one score (he’ll change that).”