British & Irish Lions

Nienaber relaxed on what Bulls loss means to Boks: 'We can't use that as a gauge'

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Jacques Nienaber (AFP)
Jacques Nienaber (AFP)
  • Springbok mentor Jacques Nienaber is emphatic that the Bulls' Rainbow Cup final loss isn't a sign of struggles to come for the national team against the British & Irish Lions.
  • He pointed to the example of 2019, where none of the SA Super Rugby teams made it past the quarter-finals, but the Boks still won the Rugby Championship and World Cup.
  • Nienaber is also reluctant to place added importance on his overseas-based players for the Boks' potential success against the Lions.

Springbok mentor Jacques Nienaber has emphatically downplayed any fears that the Bulls' humbling at the hands of Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final is a sign that the national side will struggle against the British & Irish Lions.

South Africa's lack of exposure to international competition - through no fault of its own - was apparent in Jake White's troops' 8-35 loss as the Italians outplayed and out-thought them.

Not that Nienaber is having any sleepless nights.

In fact, he cites the example of 2019's Super Rugby campaign illustrating that performances at franchise level doesn't equate to problems at international level.

READ | Bulls' Rainbow Cup loss a stark warning: 'Arrogant to think you just come to Europe and win'

"If you look at our World Cup year, you'd see that our franchises didn't perform too well in that year's tournament," Nienaber said from Bloemfontein on Monday, where the Springbok camp continues to swell in terms of numbers.

"None of our teams made it past the quarter-finals, but that doesn't necessarily mean the national team will be good or bad. We can't use it as a gauge. 

"Last year, Argentina played virtually no club or franchise rugby, but pulled off a victory against the All Blacks. I really don't think franchise rugby's results is directly correlated with international rugby, both positive or negative.

"We have certain things that we, as the Springboks, need to get in place. We can't focus on what the franchises are doing. We have our own high performance boxes to tick."

That argument also explains why Nienaber is reluctant to suddenly classify his legion of UK- and European-based players - who have been exposed to top-level, varied competition - as a type of "insurance policy" for having many locally-based players who've only played against each other over the past eight months.

"Look, I suppose it is positive having players in your squad who have been playing in European conditions and opposition recently. You get some familiarity in your squad in terms of what we'll be coming up against (in terms of the Lions)," he said.

"We've said from the outset that our teams going to Europe is a good thing. It's a tough competition and it's a good challenge for our local players and coaches to have to go out and adapt weekly. 

"Yes, it's nice having some guys in the group who've played overseas this season, but it's not the be-all and end-all. Like I've said, franchise rugby results and international results don't always correlate."

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