Win ‘wasn’t pretty’ but Jacques Nienaber is pleased Springboks got over the line against Argentina

South Africa's center Lukhanyo Am (Centre R) is tackled by Argentina's wing Matias Moroni (Centre L) during the Rugby Championship.

South Africa's center Lukhanyo Am (Centre R) is tackled by Argentina's wing Matias Moroni (Centre L) during the Rugby Championship. Photo: Wikus de Wet/AFP

Published Jul 30, 2023


Cape Town - It was not the most beautiful game in the world, but it was a grinding performance that his side needed.

That was the reaction of Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber after the Boks barely withstood a late Argentina onslaught to clinch their final Rugby Championship clash in Johannesburg winning 22-21.

Los Pumas fought back after a late Damian de Allende yellow card to almost clinch the match, but some grinding defence from the Boks, and their flyhalf Santiago Carreras struggling with his kicking boot to goal, halted what could’ve been another famous and rare win in South Africa.

But Nienaber is spot-on when he says his team needed a grinding win that tested them to the end.

Against Australia, the World Champions ran away with the final score. In the second match versus the All Blacks, the Boks fought back valiantly in the second half. On Saturday the home side had a good lead, but in the end had to keep their visitors out defensively to clinch the tie.

“Duane (Vermeulen, captain) and the guys who had to manage the last 10 minutes with the yellow card, usually we would lose these games,” Nienaber said after the match.

“At the start of the week, we said Argentina will give us a good test if you look at what they’ve achieved in the last few years. They beat New Zealand away, and Australia. And they are slowly building something. It was not pretty, but we grinded it out.”

Duane Vermeulen, stand-in captain, lamented his team’s discipline after they conceded several penalties. He feels some of the penalties were ones that just happen, but then they also had several avoidable penalties given against them.

“That was a tough thing to manage on the pitch, trying to sort that out. If we can look at that, and take away some of those avoidable penalties, it would’ve been a better game for us. I can’t fault Argentina. They play a full 80 minutes and we had to keep up.

“We are happy with the win, and we have to take it from there.”

Nienaber announced a squad of 26 players who will travel on Sunday to Argentina for the return test.

Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Damian de Allende, Frans Malherbe, Cheslin Kolbe, and Faf de Klerk are among the players who will stay behind in South Africa where their preparation will continue with Rassie Erasmus.

Nienaber and some of his management will take the squad, which includes the experienced Steven Kitshoff and Lukhanyo Am, to Buenos Aires. Jean Kleyn, Marvin Orie (both locks), Deon Fourie (utility forward), Evan Roos and Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forwards), and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies will also get a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the World Cup squad. Nienaber will announce his final 33-man squad next week Tuesday.

"We are naming the Rugby World Cup squad in a little over a week and it is important that we have a coach that can work on rugby detail with the players remaining in South Africa and who can keep a close eye on the progress the injured players are making," Nienaber said.

"Hence, we decided it would be best for Rassie to work with them.

"Next week’s match is the last opportunity for the players to make a strong statement for selection before we name our Rugby World Cup squad, and we are excited to see what those players will deliver in what is going to be a testing encounter in Buenos Aires

Springbok squad to travel to Argentina:

Props: Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Gerhard Steenekamp, Trevor Nyakane.

Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi, Joseph Dweba.

Locks: Lood de Jager, Jean Kleyn, Marvin Orie.

Loose forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez, Evan Roos, Jasper Wiese.

Utility forwards: Deon Fourie, Franco Mostert.

Scrumhalves: Jaden Hendrikse, Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach.

Flyhalf: Manie Libbok.

Centres: Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel.

Outside Backs: Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Utility back: Damian Willemse.