Injuries forced us to make changes at half time, says Bok assistant coach Deon Davids
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CAPE TOWN – Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids says injury was the reason for the starting front-row’s half-time substitution.
The Boks suffered a 22-17 defeat in the first game of the three-Test Series against the British & Irish Lions, piling on the pressure as they now have to win both remaining games to take the Series.
One of the big talking points after the game has been not only the performance of the starting front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane (it was a surprising selection considering first-choice props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe were available), but their substitution at half time despite producing a top first-half performance.
It naturally led some to questioning the decision and whether it was pre-planned.
In the build-up to the first Test, Nienaber - who went for a five-three split as opposed to their trusted six-two trend - said that he wasn’t going to make any calculated changes. If a player fulfilled his role and performed well, he’d stay on. If not, fresh legs would be called up.
In the first Test, however, the substitution of the front-row went against what he had said last week. Davids, however, explained that it was due to injury.
“I think we actually have to say congrats to Ox, Bongi and Trevor, they were exceptional in the first half,” said Davids. “But we did have a few injury niggles at half time…Ox had a neck injury, Bongi had a hamstring.
“There were all those things in mind and so the coaching staff decided the best thing in that situation was to change the front row at half-time. Those players also really emptied the tank in the first half, and although they would have liked to continue, circumstances led to that decision, and I think it was the correct one in that context.”
He went on to say that while continuity in selection is important, there are a number of things they will consider as they prepare for the must-win second Test.
“Continuity in performance and in our selection is an important thing and that will be a big consideration. But also, we will look at where we can get better, and we have to assess it against a background of looking at our systems, our skills, and the effort of players.
“Based on that, collectively we will then make a call for this week and what players will fit that scenario best. Obviously in terms of the front row, know we have world-class players such as Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Malcolm Marx, and we know what contributions they can bring from the bench. They were also impacted by the Covid-19 setback we had recently, and had to adapt in terms of their preparation.
“Then also look at Ox, Trevor and Bongi, all six of them are world class. Ox has come in and done so well, it shows the depth we have. So going forward it will be important that we ensure all are involved and get that game time behind them to excel and contribute towards a better performance.”