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Stick: ‘Massive debate’ around six-two bench split, Boks didn’t lose because of missed kicks

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick

FILE - Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

Published Sep 17, 2021


CAPE TOWN – The Springbok management team went “pound-for-pound” at each other when discussing the bench split, and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick feels there is no need for panic after six replacement forwards were once again chosen for Saturday’s clash against Australia.

Having an extra lock substitute and one less backline player worked a treat in the triumphant 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, but questions arose about having a specialist goal-kicker following last Sunday’s 28-26 loss to the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.

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Starting flyhalf Handre Pollard missed two penalties and a conversion, while his replacement Damian Willemse sliced a conversion wide as well. That amounted to 10 points, which would’ve secured victory.

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The South Africans will hope to avoid a similar fate at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (9.05am SA time kickoff), as their Rugby Championship title chances will only stay alive with a victory.

“It’s a week-in, week-out story when it comes to team selection. There’s always massive debates, and it’s not only this week that we had to debate on having a six-two split on the bench or five-three,” Stick said from Brisbane on Friday.

“That is something that we as coaches normally go pound-for-pound in the boardroom, when it comes to our discussions. It’s nothing new to us as coaches.

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“Handre didn’t have his best game when it comes to the boot, but we didn’t lose the game only because of that. I think the discipline is what let us down mostly on the day.

“Polly has been brilliant for us since 2018, where he’s always up there. But we are all human beings, and sometimes you are going to have an off-day. But it’s not only up to him – we as a team had to make sure we look at ourselves, and also as a coaching staff and the leadership, to turn things around.”

Stick was also confident that Willemse will make a positive contribution tomorrow and going forward.

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“With Damian Willemse, we all know Damian is a brilliant player, brilliant player. He’s got a lot of days coming for his future, and he is still going to get better as a person. We didn’t lose the game because of the guys who were kicking for poles,” the ex-Blitzboks star said.

“We as coaches understand that, and that is one of the main things (why) we had continuity in our team selection. We believe in our six-two split on the bench, and we know it worked for us before, so there’s no need for us to doubt or panic. Hopefully this week things will go well, and the result will be on our side.”

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