Home Sport Year-end Tour unearths depth in Springbok stocks

Year-end Tour unearths depth in Springbok stocks


“There were a whole lot of players who were not available for selection, but we have a lot of players knocking on the door and it was great to give those guys an opportunity” – Jacques Nienaber.

Damian Willemse has played his way ahead of Handré Pollard after the End of Year tour. Picture: Matt Impey, Shutterstock, BackpagePix

Durban – The refrain from the Springboks’ brains trust this season was that while results were always important, information-gathering ahead of the defence of their Rugby World Cup title in France next year is paramount – and to that end, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus will consider themselves enriched.

Consider the position of flyhalf: In July, the Boks basically did not have one, and now they have Manie Libbok pushing Damian Willemse, Johan Goosen shaking off the rust. and the old first and second choices, Handré Pollard and Elton Jantjies, still in the reckoning, although they are now at the back of the queue.

Scrumhalf has seen Faf de Klerk playing his way back into form because of the pressure put on him by the steady Jaden Hendrikse, while the livewire duo of Cobus Reinach and Grant Williams are very much in the picture.

The second-row depth has also grown nicely, and the November which that ended at Twickenham on Saturday night has shown that Marvin Orie and Salmaan Moerat are at home at the highest level.

Speaking after the Boks had beaten England 27-13, Nienaber said the forwards had been “outstanding” and paved the way for the backs to shine.

“There are guys who are knocking on the door in the pack, but I thought Franco (Mostert), Eben (Etzebeth), and Marvin were outstanding today,” Nienaber said.

“We still have guys like RG (Snyman), Salmaan, and Lood (de Jager), who were not available, so we have nice competition and it’s good to give guys an opportunity in a big game like this and to see how they handle the pressure in a hostile environment.”

Nienaber was understandably all smiles after his team had added the scalp of the English to that of Italy, to give him a 50% win record on a tour that started with close defeats to Ireland and France.

“We’ve had a couple of special results as a team (since 2018), but this was the first win for (captain) Siya Kolisi and a number of the guys at Twickenham, so it’s very special to us,” the coach smiled.

“The forwards were outstanding and created a good platform for our backs to attack, so all in all, it was a fantastic team effort.

“With this match being outside of the international Test window, there were a whole lot of players who were not available for selection, but we have a lot of players knocking on the door and it was great to give those guys an opportunity tonight,” the head coach explained.

“It’s always good to give those players a chance under such pressure in front of a packed Twickenham, which can be pretty hostile.”

He added: “This was one of the most enjoyable four weeks we’ve had, even though we only got a 50% win record.

“The way the team, coaches, management and the game drivers made plans and worked tightly together with it was great, and we can take a lot from this going forward.”

A pre-match question was whether the drama surrounding SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would positively or negatively impact the team, but Nienaber said it was irrelevant.

“People drive narratives that they want to drive,” he reflected.

“As long as we stay true to who we are and what we’re trying to do and remind ourselves of that, putting energy into that will have a positive result.

“My experience in the past is that trying to put energy into people you don’t have any control over is a waste … It doesn’t have an influence.”


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