The Springboks celebrate their series win. Billy Stickland/INPHO
Mr Motivator

'He always gets us there emotionally' – Kolisi praises Nienaber after series success

Meanwhile the South Africa head coach said he couldn’t watch Morné Steyn’s match-winning penalty.

SOUTH AFRICA CAPTAIN Siya Kolisi has praised head coach Jacques Nienaber for his ability to motivate the squad after the Springboks powered to a 2-1 series win over the British and Irish Lions.

The Springboks had a disrupted lead-in to the series, with their game against Georgia last month their first Test outing since the 2019 World Cup, while members of the squad and management were forced to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 ahead of the first Test against the Lions.

And while South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus tended to hog the limelight throughout the tour, Kolisi was quick to outline Nienaber’s importance to the group following today’s third, decisive Test.  

“Both teams had challenges during Covid but for us, I think our first full training (session) was (ahead of) the first Test,” Kolisi said.

“Some of us came from isolating, but the one thing we all agreed as a team was that it would never be an excuse, because that’s not what South Africans are made of. When you step between those four lines, you are agreeing that you are fine and you are ready to play. 

“Hats off, they beat us the first game but we had another week of training, so you know, we just looked at ourselves and worked as hard as we could to make sure that we came closer as a team and fix the mistakes that we had. 

“Also, Jacques always touches on the things that matter the most. In this environment you can’t motivate people any more with rugby, we all know what to do.

“But when you are speaking to the person – who you are playing for, what is driving me to play, what the country is going through, what this is going to do for our country, for the people and for my kids… When Jacques starts speaking like that he knows how to get us emotionally. 

I laughed when I heard that apparently we wouldn’t get up emotionally for this Test (series). I was like, clearly you don’t know who our coach is. We’ve worked together for so long and he knows me inside out, and he always gets us there emotionally. 

“So it was not only for us as a team, but for the country as well. To see people waiting outside the hotel (today), you take out your headphones and hear them screaming. That’s why we do what we do and that’s what makes us get up every single morning, the people out here who really back us through thick and thin.”

Meanwhile Nienaber said he couldn’t bring himself to watch Morné Steyn’s match-winning penalty at the Cape Town Stadium.

Steyn, who famously slotted the winning kick on the 2009 tour, came off the bench to kick two late penalties as the hosts came from behind to win 19-16, and with it take the series.

“I’ll be honest, on Morné’s kick I was sitting with my head between my legs, so I didn’t see the kick, I just listened,” Nienaber said.

“I’m happy for him in terms of having that opportunity. It’s almost like a fairytale in terms of he did it 12 years ago, and then today again… Hats off to him.”

Steyn was appearing in a Springboks jersey for the first time since 2016, and Nienaber explained how the South Africa coaching team settled on including the 37-year-old for today’s third Test ahead of Elton Jantjies.

“It was an hour discussion just between (debating) the two (out-halves). We could have gone either way, and we just felt his experience in this particular environment was the key.”

The player himself added that he was just happy to be involved again.

“Just to be part of this whole thing 12 years later is an amazing feeling,” Steyn said. “And then to get the final kick again, almost the same position (as 2009) but just a bit closer for the old legs.”
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