Jacques Nienaber hits back at accusations that Leinster ‘mocked’ World Rugby with waterboy loophole

Colin Newboult
Jacques Nienaber acting as Leinster waterboy during the Champions Cup final defeat to Toulouse.

Jacques Nienaber acting as Leinster waterboy during the Champions Cup final defeat to Toulouse.

Leinster coach Jacques Nienaber has defended his role during Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse on Saturday.

The Springboks’ Rugby World Cup winner drew the ire of Les Rouge et Noir when he was seen carrying the water during the second half of their clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Under the current Word Rugby laws, which were updated after the controversy surrounding Rassie Erasmus, the head coach or director of rugby is not allowed to perform that duty.

However, with Leo Cullen the head honcho and Nienaber’s official title being that of ‘senior coach’, the South African was given the green light by EPCR officials to enter the field of play.

Able to talk to players directly

That therefore enabled him to pass on instructions to the players face-to-face, much to the frustration of Leinster’s opponents at the weekend.

Loose Pass described it as “childish mockery” but Nienaber wanted to “nip it in the bud”, insisting that they were not trying to play the system.

“I don’t come from a coaching background,” he said. “I didn’t have the physical attributes to become a top-end rugby player, but God gave me brains, so I wanted to be involved in rugby.

“I went and studied my a**e off to become a physio and then through that I transitioned into S&C and then into becoming a defence coach, and it almost feels to me now Leinster and Jacques are trying to bail out the system. I’m not!

“I don’t understand why people think I’m trying, or we’re trying to, play the rules. There’s nothing sinister in it.

“It’s just my route to becoming a coach was different from other coaches and I don’t understand why I should be penalised by that and why people think there’s something sinister, there’s nothing sinister.”

Loose Pass: Leinster and Jacques Nienaber make ‘childish mockery’ of World Rugby laws

Despite Nienaber’s influence on and off the field, Leinster ultimately failed in their quest to win their first Champions Cup title since 2018.

Toulouse emerged with a 31-22 triumph in London, leaving the Irish province to ponder what went wrong during a tough post-match review.

“You try and look at it as unemotional as possible, and there’s a lot of things, but I think there’s probably three things that stand out,” the former Springboks head coach said.

“The first one is did you win the game? No. That’s the biggest thing and the most important one. Then the second one I would say was our discipline, but not necessarily discipline, as in giving penalties away, but discipline in terms of keeping continuity with ball in hand. We gave too many turnovers away.

“And then the third is continuity, our breakdown, and credit should probably go to Toulouse and how they slowed our ball down, so we struggled to generate consistent quick ball, especially when we got into their 22. Those are the three glaring issues I would say.”

Kicking criticism

Nienaber also addressed the criticism around their decision-making when they received penalties in the opposition half.

Leinster tended to opt for the corner, rather than kick at goal, and that rarely paid dividends as Toulouse defended their line superbly.

“I saw people saying something about nine kickable penalties and I went through every single one,” Nienaber said.

“I think we talk about four penalties [that might have been kickable], and from those four, one was on the 15, one was probably 10 metres from the touchline and the other two were on the five or in the 5m, between the touchline and the 5m, which there, you back the captain and the kicker to have a chat and say, ‘Listen, how do you feel for this one?’ Then, they must make a call.

“If we went for poles and missed, people will say, like two years ago when Leinster played La Rochelle and they were too conservative, why didn’t they go to touch?

“If you lose, it doesn’t matter what you say after because your decision-making was wrong because the outcome wasn’t positive.”

READ MORE: Leinster exploited law loophole for Jacques Nienaber’s return to waterboy duties