Durban - The message from Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber to his team's supporters is to “expect the expected” when he names his team for their tour opener against Wales next Saturday, and the same would go for playing strategy as the Boks take a conservative route towards finishing the year on a high.
There will be some inevitable changes because of injuries to Faf de Klerk, Frans Malherbe and Cheslin Kolbe but for the most part Nienaber says he will stick to the tried and tested.
The 32-man Bok squad arrived in Paris over the weekend where they will have a training camp ahead of the matches against Wales, Scotland and England.
“If you look at who we have on tour, except for the injuries that we have, we are building consistency,” Nienaber said. “Since the 2019 World Cup, we have only played 10 Test matches because we lost out on 2020 due to Covid-19.
“So the key thing for us is to build consistency again — consistency in our performances and preparations. So I don't think there will be a lot of surprises in team selection and what we put out. “In saying that, nobody is irreplaceable in our squad.
“There is so much good competition. If you think that we played in the British & Irish Lions series without Duane Vermeulen; we played the final game without Faf de Klerk; we played in the Rugby Championship without Cheslin Kolbe; and in the last Test match against New Zealand without Frans Malherbe.
“From that perspective, we know as a group that nobody is irreplaceable. We must also know that we have to perform. When the players are at their clubs, they have to stake their claim for selection and players who are with us now have to train well to stake their claim.
“And knowing this group, we all work hard and take nothing for granted. That's why I say there won't be surprises in selection. There is enough competition that if you slack off, there is someone to take your spot.”
One certain change will be at scrumhalf because of the unavailability of incumbent De Klerk, who has undergone hip surgery, and it is a straight shoot-out between Cobus Reinach and Herschel Jantjies to slot in. Nienaber was asked if had seen Reinach's two tries for Montpelier against Racing 92 on Saturday in the flesh, as some Boks were spotted in the Parisian crowd
“I wasn't at the game myself as I arrived at 5am on Sunday morning in the second group — we were split into two groups for travel purposes —but I did see the highlights and I thought Cobus was excellent,” Nienaber said before deflecting attention to Reinach's teammate, Handre Pollard.
“It was also nice to see Handre at flyhalf. Some of the guys went there as an outing to give Cobus and Handre support and they said the stadium (the Paris La Defense Arena) provided a very special environment.”
Nienaber was asked by an enthusiastic British reporter what more Reinach has to do to clinch a starting berth.
“The guys know what they have to do,” Nienaber said. “With Faf injured there is a spot open, and it is between Cobus, Herschel and Grant Williams to replace him. It is going to be a tough one, but that is what we want in our squad because good competition drives good standards.
“Cobus was excellent for us against the British & Irish Lions in the last game, then Faf came back from injury, and then we saw how well Herschel finished the game against New Zealand — he had a very good outing. So we are fortunate that we have very good No 9s pushing for starting positions.”