New Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber doesn’t deny that he’ll still have to win the hearts of some doubters.
The 47-year-old qualified physiotherapist has up-skilled himself remarkably in becoming arguably the world authority on defensive systems, but has never previously been a head coach.
However, with a national structure based on continuity in place, he hopes to change perceptions in the best possible manner: results.
“There are going to be people who believe my appointment is a massive risk, and, jeez, what can I say? They’re probably right,” Nienaber said at his official unveiling in Pretoria on Friday.
“I’m not stupid, I understand this is a risk. We as a management group have discussed at length how we’re going to manage that situation. That’s the only thing we can do. But when Rassie (Erasmus) told me he believes I’m the right guy for the job, I wouldn’t have accepted it if I didn’t think I can do it.”
He is hardly the first individual across various sporting codes to be handed such a high-profile responsibility despite never playing professionally and won’t be the last either.
Instead, Nienaber’s willingness to expand his horizons should at least allow him some benefit of doubt.
“I think if one takes my background into consideration, I started as a physio, I then went into sport science coaching and then defence coaching, I illustrated that I’m a guy who likes new challenges.
“I’m real keen on this. I wouldn’t have accepted if I didn’t think I could make a success of this, otherwise I would’ve immediately told everyone to keep me where I am.
“At the moment, I can’t convince people who doubt me. On-field results will probably have to do that. The challenge will come when we face Scotland in July. That’s all I can say.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander, who confirmed that the governing body’s executive committee had approved the coaching staff in December already, professed himself satisfied with the make-up of Nienaber’s group.
“Large organisations don’t advertise positions, they make sure they have succession plans in place,” he said.
“Jacques was in the system. And in four years time we might see Mzwandile Stick or someone take over as head coach. We want succession and want continuity.”