Argentina trip is ‘Last Chance Saloon’ for fringe Springboks to impress brains trust ahead of Rugby World Cup

South Africa's coach Jacques Nienaber holds a ball

Coach Jacques Nienaber will be making his final decisions on fringe players after the Springboks match Argentina in Buenos Aires. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Jul 31, 2023


The Argentine capital of Buenos Aires will double as the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ for Springboks on the fringe of the World Cup squad to be announced by coach Jacques Nienaber on August 8.

The Springbok coach has spread opportunities fairly evenly across the three Rugby Championship matches and this week’s friendly against Los Pumas will get more players up to speed.

“Next week’s match is the last opportunity for the players to make a strong statement for selection before we name our Rugby World Cup squad, and we are excited to see what those players will deliver in what is going to be a testing encounter in Buenos Aires,” said Bok coach Nienaber.

“It’s extremely tough to play there, and Argentina enjoys massive support from their vocal home crowd, so it’s not only going to be a physical test for the players, but a mental one as well

“Many of these players have received some game time in the last few weeks, while a few could get their first run, such as Jean-Luc (du Preez) and Herschel (Jantjies), and we know how important it is for them to grab this opportunity with both hands.”

The standby flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, has been released from the greater squad because Handre Pollard is approaching full fitness.

Nienaber said the players who will not travel to Argentina will remain in Johannesburg, where they will train under the watchful eye of SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and a small group of team management members. The other coaches will accompany the travelling squad to Argentina.

“We are naming the Rugby World Cup squad in a little over a week and it is important that we have a coach that can work on rugby detail with the players remaining in South Africa and who can keep a close eye on the progress the injured players are making,” said Nienaber.

“Hence, we decided it would be best for Rassie to work with them.

“Obviously, he’ll still assist the team abroad virtually, and viceversa to ensure that the players here have all the necessary game and conditioning detail they need to tick the boxes we’d like to do with them before we travel to Cardiff for our next warm-up game.”

Nienaber said he was not overly disappointed with a Springbok performance at Emirates Airline Park that at best could be described as workmanlike.

“The easiest way to get cohesion is to have continuity in selection and that’s probably where we’ve been putting the players under pressure,” Nienaner said of the scrappy game.

“If you look at the number of minutes Bongi Mbonambi played compared to Malcolm Marx a week ago and how we’ve evened it out now by letting Malcolm start, you’ll see there’s some parity now in terms of match-fitness. And that’s what we’re trying to do overall.

“It’s about getting everybody back into the mix, playing rugby again on an international stage. However, every week they have had to contend with a different hooker, prop, loose trio and so on, which affects rhythm.

“As we get closer to the World Cup, team selection will be more consistent.”

The Springboks will face Wales in Cardiff on August 19 and New Zealand at Twickenham on August 25 in their final warm-up matches before travelling to the French island of Corsica for a one-week training camp en route to France for the Rugby World Cup.