Nick Mallett began his rugby career with a call up to the Western Province Currie Cup team whilst a student at Cape Town University in the late 1970s. Mallett moved to Oxford University in 1979 and won blues in rugby and cricket, once dispatching the great Ian Botham for three sixes in an over during a friendly against Somerset, before returning to play for Western Province.
Between 1982 and 1985 Mallett was part of the side that won three consecutive Currie Cups, and he was rewarded with two Springbok caps in 1984 against the touring South American Jaguars.
Mallett's coaching career began with St Claude in France, a small side in the Jura Mountains whom Mallett played for and coached for five seasons before moving to Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris.
In 1994 Mallett returned to South Africa and took up a post with False Bay Rugby Club, before moving on to coach the unfashionable Boland Cavaliers to a narrow defeat in the Currie Cup quarter-finals. Following two seasons with Boland, Mallett secured an assistant coach position with the South African national side in 1996, before taking control the following season.
He took the reins following the Springboks' damaging series loss to the Lions and poor Tri Nations and led them to a world record equalling 17 consecutive Test victories and a Tri Nations crown. Mallett's side had peaked early, and their disappointing 1999 World Cup was compounded by the exclusion of talismanic captain Gary Teichmann following a falling out with Mallett. In 2000 Mallett accused the SARU of "greed" over inflated ticket prices, and resigned his post pending a hearing over charges of bringing the game into disrepute
His return to rugby was again in France, with Stade Francais. The club was rich in cash and facilities but light on silverware upon his arrival, and he subsequently won consecutive Top 14 titles in 2003 and 2004. Mallett again returned to Western Province in 2004, this time as director of rugby.
In 2007 Mallett returned to the international rugby as the new coach of Italy, and took charge of his first Six Nations in 2008. Italy were only able to register a single win, but Mallett's reputation as a man who can improve sides looking to take a difficult final step stands them in good stead for the future.