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Springboks need warm-up matches to be sharp for Rugby World Cup despite injury risks


The Springboks will go into their next two matches looking to put in the final pieces of the puzzle to their World Cup preparation.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber hopes the next two warm-up matches against Wales and New Zealand will set his team up for the World Cup challenge. Picture: REUTERS, Siphiwe Sibeko

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is hopeful the next two warm-up matches against Wales and New Zealand will put the final pieces in place that will complete their 2023 Rugby World Cup jigsaw puzzle.

After giving almost all 42 players that were part of the preparation squad a chance in the last four Test matches, Nienaber and his Bok management will shift focus to fielding their strongest sides in the next two games.

South Africa will face Wales (Cardiff, August 19), and New Zealand (Twickenham, August 25) in the last fixtures before going into the defence of their world title.

The Boks were satisfied with the outcomes in the Rugby Championship, and Nienaber believes they received varied challenges when he mixed up the team against Australia, the All Blacks, and Argentina – something that can only benefit their World Cup cause.

Despite mixing and matching, the Boks only lost once in Auckland against the Kiwis.

Against Australia in Pretoria, the home side dominated the physical battle, and the backline ran away with the show.

Argentina tested the grit of the world champions in both matches, and they passed that challenge with flying colours after securing consecutive victories.

“We really put our squad under massive pressure with the rotations (in the last four games), and it comes with a huge risk,” Nienaber said.

“But it’s advantageous if you can keep winning, and you keep building momentum. For the next couple of weeks, some work still lies ahead looking at the World Cup and the matches we have.”

The Springboks look set to welcome back captain Siya Kolisi to full training in the lead-up to the Wales Test, and a high possibility exists that he can return to the playing field after his knee injury.

This clash will also most likely indicate the make-up of the Bok side that will start the World Cup campaign against Scotland on September 10 in Marseille, with a few tweaks.

Nienaber added that they know there will be an element of risk in fielding a possible full-strength squad, looking at the injuries to Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Lood de Jager.

“That is the thing: any match you play will have the risk of injuries. But you can go one of two routes – you play guys and they get battle-hardened. They are warm and are playing games. They are conditioned under pressure.

“Or you can wrap them in cotton wool and you won’t have injured players, but you will take players into a World Cup where we will play knockout rugby from the first match against Scotland.

“We believe we need two more matches to get the team ready, and that is why we announced a fit group (with no injuries).

“We have five weeks left (until the first game), and we will use every minute and every day at our disposal to get better.”

Nienaber says the match against Wales next weekend will not be easy, even though Warren Gatland’s team are ranked ninth in the world.

The Welsh beat England in a World Cup warm-up in Cardiff last weekend, and face the same opposition in London today, and the Bok coach believes they will be out to do the same against his side next weekend.


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