Springboks had a good look at what our soul is, says Nienaber ahead of All Black showdown
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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says his team have gone back to “revisiting what our soul is”, and that they intend to stick to their guns for Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks in Townsville.
The South Africans lost their way somewhat in last weekend’s 30-17 defeat to Australia in Brisbane, which was preceded by a 28-26 loss to the same opponents on the Gold Coast.
Last Saturday at Suncorp Stadium, the Boks again missed a number of tackles, were unable to get their lineout maul going as well as it did the previous week, and lacked the necessary precision with ball-in-hand on attack.
Nienaber feels that his team arguably moved too far away from what worked for them before, and this Saturday at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium, they won’t make the same mistakes in their 100th Test against the All Blacks.
“Obviously we are not going to say too much about what we changed in our plans. We had a good look at how we played, and we were brutally honest,” the Bok coach said on Tuesday after bringing in Lood de Jager at lock and Kwagga Smith at blindside flank.
“I thought there were some things that were good. I thought our lineout mauling was good, our scrums were good. I thought we were good on the high ball. We will have a session tomorrow where we will probably touch on the defensive side of things – I think there were one or two errors that we made there.
“There are one or two (things) that we will fix and rectify going into this weekend’s game. And then probably revisiting what our soul is, what we do as South Africans and what we enjoy doing, and probably going back to that.”
Nienaber said that didn’t mean that the Boks didn’t want to play attacking rugby, but rather choosing the right moment to do so.
“I think, if you look at what Australia did, they probably beat us at our own game. I don’t think Australia made even 70 passes in the whole game. So, they came with a completely different plan to what they did in the previous games against France and New Zealand,” he said.
“I do think we got caught up a little bit in that, so we had a good look at that in terms of what our soul is, and I do think we played probably double the amount of rugby that Australia did.
“That’s not to say that we don’t need to play rugby, but you must play rugby when it’s on – when the opportunity is there. And we probably pushed it a little bit when the opportunity wasn’t on: when they had a settled defence, when they maybe gave us a bit of kick-space in behind, we probably got caught up and forced things in terms of carries.
“And then when the opportunity was there to run, we probably kicked when we maybe should’ve done another option. I know Australia changed 100 percent… made a U-turn in terms of what they did in the past versus what they did against us at the weekend. They almost beat us with our own game.”
While De Jager returns in place of Marvin Orie after recovering from a concussion, the selection of Smith at No 7 was due to Franco Mostert’s heavy workload this season, but also what the former Blitzbok star can provide to the pack.
The experienced duo of Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn will also give the Bok backline more options in the second half, although Cheslin Kolbe has not got over a leg injury yet.
“Sous (Mostert) has been a stalwart for us this season. He played lock, and then Pieter-Steph got injured, and we moved him to blindside flanker, and he’s produced 80 minutes after 80 minutes after 80 minutes. And then if we take a lock off, he moves from blindside into the lock position,” Nienaber said.
“This is purely to give him a little bit of a break. He’s trained every single training session and played every minute.
“Kwagga brought nice energy when he came on last weekend against Australia. Kwagga is a versatile guy – he’s a guy that we trust. He’s been part of us since 2019, so excited to see what Kwagga’s going to bring. Then we can bring Sous in at lock or blindside, wherever we feel we need some injection.”
15 Willie le Roux 14 Sbu Nkosi 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Handre Pollard 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Kwagga Smith 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Lood de Jager 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Vincent Koch 19 Franco Mostert 20 Marco van Staden 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Frans Steyn.