Jacques Nienaber claims Leinster are ‘not the finished product yet’

David Skippers
Jacques Nienaber and Leinster huddle 2024.jpg

Leinster's players and their senior coach, Jacques Nienaber.

Although Leinster are in the running to lift both the Investec Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship (URC) titles, they are still far from where they need to be.

That is the word from the Irish province’s World Cup-winning senior coach Jacques Nienaber, who said that although his team haven’t reached their full potential yet, he expects them to get better as the season progresses.

After an impressive start against Northampton Saints in their Champions Cup semi-final at Croke Park on Saturday, Leinster had some nervy moments towards the end of that match as the Premiership outfit launched a late fightback but they held on for a 20-17 win.

Backing Leinster to lift silverware

Despite that, Nienaber is confident that Leinster will end their barren run in both competitions by the end of this season.

“We showed there is definitely stuff that we can improve on in attack,” he said as the team prepared for their URC clash with the Ospreys at the RDS Arena on Saturday.

“There is definitely some stuff that we can improve on in our kicking game. There is a lot of stuff we can improve on in our defence.

“There is a lot of stuff that we can improve on in our set-piece. I think we’re not the finished product at all.

“In fairness, when we reviewed the (Northampton) game with the players, they said, ‘There is a lot that we can get better at’. As a coaching group, we know that and as a playing group, we know that.

“We’ve got seven weeks until the end of the season and we’ve got seven weeks to make sure we get better at those things, but we’re not the finished product at all.

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“Were there things that we could have done better? Yes. Were there things that we did well? Yes. The way we closed out the game in the last four minutes was good.

“I just think rugby is like life. There’s ebbs and flows. You’re not feeling brilliant every day for 50 years. Some days you feel down, some days you feel great.

“That’s life, and rugby is like life. Sometimes the momentum is going with you and sometimes it’s going against you. It’s just how you absorb that.

“There will be opportunities. If you don’t take them, they’ll punish you. It’s as simple as that.”

Nienaber said it was unrealistic to expect a side like the Saints to just surrender in a major semi-final.

“I mean, has any team buried them (Northampton)?,” he asked.

“They’re not a team that gets put away quickly. They’re not top of the Premiership and scored the most Premiership tries for nothing.

Wasted some opportunities

“There were maybe opportunities that we had that we could have done better with. We looked at that and we have to fix that. So there’s a lot to fix from our side.

“Playing in a semi-final, you must get over the line and it’s not going to be perfect. That’s knockout rugby for you. There’s no bonus points for knockout, semis, finals. You just must do everything in your power to win.

“It’ll be the same when we go to the URC quarter-finals. This weekend, it’s still bonus points and points difference up for grabs – but in the knockouts it’s purely just to win the game.”

READ MORE: How Jacques Nienaber knew Northampton were ‘always going to come back’ in dramatic Champions Cup semi-final