British & Irish Lions

Nienaber on Springbok front row depth: 'We could swap them and nobody would raise an eyebrow'

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Ox Nche (Gallo)
Ox Nche (Gallo)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has unpacked his decision to start props Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane for Saturday's first Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium. 

Nche, who has just one Test cap to his name that came back in 2018, starts ahead of Steven Kitshoff, who was largely expected to take on the No 1 jersey following Tendai Mtawarira's retirement at the end of the 2019 World Cup. 

Nyakane, meanwhile, will wear the No 3 jersey while Frans Malherbe takes his place on the bench. 

Bongi Mbonambi is the starting hooker with Malcolm Marx among the substitutes, as was the case in the 2019 World Cup final. 

Addressing media after announcing his team on Tuesday, Nienaber unpacked the decision, explaining that he didn't see one front row as more important than the other. 

"With the quality of front-rowers that we have available, and when we have a discussion with our front-rowers, we almost see them as a pairing," he said. 

"Is it more important to start and sing the anthem or to be on the field when the final whistle blows? They know that we work in tandem together and they've got a specific role that they have to play."

Nienaber added that he was "very comfortable" with Nyakane at tighthead despite a fair amount of criticism levelled at him over his recent scrumming performances.

"If you start there are certain things you have to achieve, and if you come off the bench then you have a specific role too. The players understand it like that and they have bought into it, so hats off to them for doing that," he said.

"We see our front rowers as a pairing and a unit.

"Ox has got specific things that he has to achieve starting the game and then, obviously, Kitshoff coming off the bench has different attributes and a different skill set that he brings to the game.

"We are fortunate that we have quality props and a quality front row.

"You could swap the two front rows around and nobody would even raise an eyebrow. That's the best combination we think will serve the Springboks in getting a result, and that's the way we went."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)

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