JOHANNESBURG - DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC acid – DNA – is a concept that has been promulgated around plenty by the Springboks this past fortnight.
Last week, captain Siya Kolisi mentioned that the Boks had done some deep introspection to find it, while Bok coach Jacques Nienaber insisted they must return to an understanding of it.
It was no different yesterday at the Bok team announcement, when again Nienaber espoused that by only sticking to the fundamental building blocks of South African rugby – their DNA – would they be able to beat the All Blacks this weekend in the final match of the Rugby Championship.
The nucleus of that ideology then indicates supporters should not expect a different approach this weekend, and it showed in the selection of the match-day 23.
In all, Nienaber made two changes to the starting XV, both in the front row and both due to the injury to Frans Malherbe, with Ox Nche packing down at loosehead, which moves Trevor Nyakane into the tighthead spot.
In every other position the Boks will be represented by the players who narrowly lost to the All Blacks this past weekend.
And while there were calls from some quarters to mix it up a little and perhaps give the greater squad a run – especially now that there is no title to play for – Nienaber has resisted that temptation and stuck to his guns.
“One of our strategic goals is to
build depth,” said Nienaber in the media briefing yesterday, “but also the biggest one is to win.”
“Whenever we have the opportunity to give our rotational players a little bit more exposure in Test matches, we will do that.
“Missing out on so much Test match rugby in 2020 due to Covid, I feel as a team, we need to get back to the standard we were in 2019. We are still building towards that. From that perspective, no, not when we play as No 1 and No 2 in the world – you play your best possible team available.”
The Boks employed a game plan heavily reliant on box-kicks in the 19-17 loss this past Saturday. It came close to paying dividends until the last 10 minutes, when the Boks became victims of their own strategy.
The strategy this weekend, however unpopular with pundits and fans, seems to be hinged on that approach again. Nevertheless, Nienaber assured that if the opportunity to expand on their tactics does present itself, then they will adapt accordingly.
“Will we change the strategy?” Nienaber asked rhetorically. “Yes.”
“It depends on what New Zealand does. If New Zealand change their strategy in the way they defend, in the way they do things, and if they give us space in different areas of the field, then we will take it ...
“Our option will always be to attack space. You also try to attack space with what you feel you are good at, your DNA. We feel that (the kicking game) is our DNA, that is what we are good at, and we can’t hide away from it.”
Elsewhere, the shoulder injury to Marco van Staden has also made him ineligible for selection. In his stead, Jasper Wiese will collect his eighth Test cap when he comes off the bench later. Nienaber has also opted to stay with a 5-3 split on the bench.
Kick-off for the match is at 12pm on Saturday.
Springbok starting XV: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi (capt), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche; Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.