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Bok coach: Our option will always be to attack space

Kwagga Smith of the Springboks in action during the Rugby Championship Round 5 match against New Zealand’s All Blacks at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville, Queensland. Picture: EPA, Scott Radford-Chisholm

Jacques Nienaber says that the Springboks could have managed last weekend’s game against the All Blacks a little bit better, especially at the back-end of the game.

CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber admits that the coaching staff and players could have managed last weekend’s 19-17 loss to the All Blacks “a little bit better at the back-end of the game”.

Nienaber was asked on Tuesday about whether the Boks will change their approach for this Saturday’s final Rugby Championship showdown with New Zealand at the Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast (12.05pm SA time kickoff) after three consecutive defeats.

Immediately after the match, he was adamant that he wouldn’t have wanted the Boks to adopt different tactics to the incessant kicking in the closing minutes.

But at the team announcement press conference on Tuesday, Nienaber said: “One must always look at it objectively. We probably could’ve managed two games – the first Australian Test match and last week’s Test match – a little bit better at the back-end of the game … Maybe could’ve changed or made a few subs from our coaching perspective.

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“We could’ve gotten some new energy or a lift of energy a little bit quicker as a team. So, stuff like that. Will we change the strategy? Yes … it depends on what New Zealand does. If New Zealand change their strategy and the way they defend and the way they do things, and they give us space in a different area of the field, obviously we’ll take it.

“But if they load the front-line with 14 defenders and only one at the back, I mean, obviously the space is probably going to be at the back. Our ability to adapt to that, adapt to what pictures they are painting for us, is going to be the key. It depends on where they give us space.

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“Our option will always be to attack space – and sometimes attacking space will be by keeping ball-in-hand, because there’s space in front of you in the front-line, and sometimes space will be on the edge.

“Then you have to have a passing game to out-flank them. And sometimes the space is in behind them … then you must unfortunately utilise the kicking game to get into that space.

“So, rugby will always stay the same in terms of that – it’s to try to attack space. And you also try and attack space with what you feel you’re good at … your DNA as a team. We feel that is our DNA, that is what we are good at.

“And yes, we can’t hide away from the fact that we lost three games on the trot now. But like I say, I feel we were, in the first Australia Test match and this last game, in position to win those games with two to three minutes to go. Yes, we spoke about that, and we can still grow and improve in terms of managing that department. And it’s not just players – it’s management as well.”

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Nienaber only made a couple of injury-enforced changes to the team on Tuesday, with Frans Malherbe ruled out with a neck niggle, which sees Trevor Nyakane shifting over to tighthead prop and Ox Nche starting at No.1.

On the bench, Jasper Wiese returns for Marco van Staden, who picked up a shoulder injury last Saturday, while Cheslin Kolbe has still not recovered sufficiently from a leg problem.

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The coach said he did not think of making wholesale changes to the side.

“No, I won’t say necessarily when we play number one and two in the world. One of our strategic goals is to create squad depth, but also the biggest one is to win. So, whenever we have the opportunity to give our rotational players more exposure to Test matches, we would do that,” Nienaber said.

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“But 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 standards that we had in 2019. I still believe we are still building towards that.

“So, from that perspective, when you play number one and two in the world, you play your best possible team available.”

Springbok XV: 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 Trevor Nyakane 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche.

Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Vincent Koch 19 Franco Mostert 20 Jasper Wiese 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Frans Steyn.


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