Durban — The 43-man Springbok squad may have a host of newcomers but coach Jacques Nienaber has made it clear that Test-match rugby is no place for experimentation and his team to play the first match against Wales will consist of his usual suspects.
Nienaber was speaking at a media conference on Tuesday ahead of the three-Test series against Wales next month and he underlined that the Springboks’ primary duty is to win rugby matches for their country, and the new additions to his squad will be slotted in when circumstances call for it.
When asked if he would use the Wales series and the Rugby Championship to grow his depth ahead of next year’s World Cup, he said: “It is a balancing act but only to a degree. When you represent your country you are representing a proud brand that is well over 100 years old and you have a responsibility to perform and make South Africans proud.
“We obviously have a plan to manage players but it can change very quickly as injuries inevitably arise,” Nienaber explained. “If there is an opportunity to blood someone it will more than likely be determined by injuries.”
In other words, Nienaber is not going to mess with the tried and tested formula that defeated the British and Irish Lions last year and was effective in the tight tussles with the All Blacks, where one match was just lost and the other just won.
And Nienaber says Wales are not going to be the mugs that everyone is expecting simply because they had a disastrous Six Nations that ended with a first-ever loss to Italy. In fact, that is why they are going to be so dangerous, reasons the Bok coach.
“They will be a desperate Wales side,” Nienaber warned. “And I am saying that not because I am guessing what is going on their camp right now but because in 2018 we were in the same position (in 2017 the Boks were appalling in then-coach Allister Coetzee’s last season).”
The Welsh have had their full squad at coach Wayne Pivac’s disposal for over a month now after none of the four Welsh teams made the URC play-offs.
“They have had a lot of preparation time before this series — they will be well-coached, well-prepared and desperate, and that makes them extremely dangerous.”