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Nienaber replaces Erasmus as coach of world champ Springboks

Defense specialist Jacques Nienaber was promoted to head coach of the world champion Springboks on Friday to replace Rassie Erasmus, who returned to the more senior role of South Africa's director of rugby after winning the World Cup in November.

Erasmus had already indicated before the World Cup in Japan that he would go back to his regular job after the tournament. He'll still oversee the management of the Springboks and be held accountable if they lose.

“Jacques will be responsible for the test match preparation and day-to-day team operations but, as the director of rugby, I will be with the team for the majority of the time and in the coaches’ box with Jacques at matches," Erasmus said.

“I’ll still be responsible for the strategy and results, with Jacques taking operational control. The structure allows the director of rugby to spend more time on other aspects of the role."

The 47-year-old Nienaber has worked closely with Erasmus for 15 years and was Erasmus' defense coach when the Springboks won their third world title last year. They've been side by side through most of their professional coaching careers and the South African rugby body said “continuity” was the key to Nienaber's appointment.

Erasmus and Nienaber worked together at the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and then Cape Town-based Stormers in South African domestic rugby. Erasmus took Nienaber with him to be his defense coach when he was appointed director of rugby at Irish club Munster in 2016.

Erasmus returned home to answer the Springboks' call and was first appointed director of rugby. He took on the role of head coach of the Springboks in early 2018 and brought Nienaber in to work alongside him again.

At the time, the Springboks were at one of their lowest points having fallen to a series of record defeats in 2016 and 2017 under previous coach Allister Coetzee. Erasmus turned their fortunes around to win last year's southern hemisphere Rugby Championship and then the World Cup against all expectations.

Nienaber was widely praised for making the Boks one of the world's best defensive teams over the last 12 months.

“This is a massive honor and responsibility but I think I have a good understanding of what it entails, especially in this new structure," Nienaber said.

“I’ve worked with Rassie in a coaching capacity for nearly two decades now and we have a very good idea of how each of us thinks."

SA Rugby also announced it had retained Mzwandile Stick as one of the Springboks' assistant coaches and brought in Deon Davids as the other. Davids replaced Matt Proudfoot, who has left to join England's coaching staff. Daan Human is the Springboks' new scrum coach, although he'll split his time between the national team and his job as scrum coach of the Bulls in Super Rugby.

South Africa's first assignment as world champion is a two-test series against Scotland in July.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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