Jacques Nienaber: 'Six Nations team raised their level against Ireland'

Jacques Nienaber: 'Six Nations team raised their level against Ireland'

Leinster's Jacques Nienaber has claimed that the teams that faced Ireland in the Six Nations raised their game because of how good the Ireland rugby team are.

Ireland once again won the Six Nations title but was made to suffer in games against Wales, England, and Scotland. Over the years, Ireland would have won with ease under Andy Farrell.

However, a loss to England and a gutsy win over Scotland last weekend offered something quite different.

Nienaber believes that Ireland being a potential upset for many teams was the reason the end of the Six Nations became a bigger slog than it had been in weeks previous.

"Sometimes [fans] get into such a habit of winning; I’m talking about the country, not the team or the players; they are so used to Ireland winning that sometimes the way they win is maybe not what they want," said the 51-year-old South African.

"But they won back-to-back Six Nations. I’m not saying people aren’t celebrating it; I’m just saying the energy levels... teams get themselves up to play against Ireland because they were the top team.

"To win a back-to-back competition like the Six Nations is massive, and one must see it for that.

"You are the target; you are the [team] that everyone wants to play against. The opposition can’t wait to play against Ireland."

Tommy Freeman of England is tackled by Jack Crowley and Hugo Keenan of Ireland during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on March 09, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Ireland's next test match will be against Rugby World Cup champions South Africa in July. Nienaber, formerly of the Boks and now at Leinster, believes that Ireland will now want to test themselves against the best in the sport.

"I think the two Test matches against Ireland sold out in an hour or two," added Nienaber.

"All the tickets are gone because everyone wants to test themselves against the best.

"Ireland want to test themselves against South Africa, the current world champions. South Africa wants to test itself against Ireland, the northern hemisphere champions.

"South Africa... were due to play them in the year that there was COVID, in 2020, so it’s actually a team that South Africa hasn’t played a lot."

Nienaber also believes that his old side will relish having Ireland over in the coming months. He says both teams will have a good crack at winning the two-test series.

"I was there for six years, and we only played Ireland twice. We don’t get tested against them often, which we would have loved.

"They will cherish having Ireland there because they are number two in the world. It will be a 1 vs. 2 clash going into that series.

"It’s only two Test matches, so both will have a good crack at it to get a series win.

"It will be something they will look forward to."