Former Springbok forward AJ Venter is confident that Jacques Nienaber will make a success of his tenure as head coach of the national team.
Nienaber, previously the team's defence guru, has taken over the head coaching responsibilities from Rassie Erasmus, who has taken a back seat to focus on his director of rugby role at SA Rugby.
Venter, who played provincially for Free State, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province, told Sport24 in an exclusive interview that he's known Nienaber for a long time.
"When I was playing at the Free State, Jacques was the physiotherapist so I have known him for 20 years. There is no one with more heart and commitment than him. The hours he puts in is just phenomenal and he will have absolute commitment to his team and South Africa for that matter," Venter said.
Erasmus and Nienaber have a long history, having first met in the army before crossing paths at the University of the Free State's Shimlas team where Nienaber was the physiotherapist and Erasmus the captain.
When Erasmus became coach of the Free State Cheetahs, he appointed Nienaber as strength and conditioning coach, with the latter later shifting his focus to the team's defensive structures.
Nienaber followed Erasmus to the Stormers and also Munster in Ireland, before starting at the Springboks in 2018.
Venter, who played 25 Tests for the Springboks as a loose forward and lock between 2000 and 2006, added: "I'm not exactly sure how far removed Rassie is going to be from the whole coaching dynamic but I think he will still be closely involved with everything. However, I have absolute faith in Jacques to take the project forward.
"It's true that it's quite a big step up for Jacques, having never previously been a head coach but I don't think Rassie would have made this decision without much thought. He knows and is comfortable that Jacques will do the job well. However, Rassie is also aware he'll always only be an arm's length away from the team situation."
- Compiled by Sport24 staff