Bok coach Nienaber defends selections after Wales loss: 'No guarantee first-choice XV would've won'

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Evan Roos. (Photo by Charle Lombard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Evan Roos. (Photo by Charle Lombard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
  • Bok mentor Jacques Nienaber defended the use of an experimental combination after his troops suffered a historic first defeat to Wales in South Africa.
  • Nienaber argued that there was no guarantee a more settled side would've beaten "tough" Wales anyway.
  • Instead, he believes the Boks have now gained some useful answers on some of their squad members.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber defended the selection of an experimental combination after those charges' lack of composure led to an untidy if narrow 13-12 defeat to Wales in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.

Hindsight is an exact science and the reverse - South Africa's first ever to the Dragons on home soil - will inevitably lead to the question of whether the series should've been secured before testing depth.

Yet Nienaber reasonably countered that the All Blacks and Wallabies, who both lost earlier to Ireland and England respectively, assembled first-choice XVs and find themselves in the same position as the Boks, who've "gained more answers".

READ | Valiant Wales make history against wayward Springboks in Bloemfontein to square series

"Look, this is what we wanted to get out of this game," he said.

"We said from the start that we have a plan with all 42 players in our squad. If you're going to be quite open and honest about it, you could argue that the conservative route [would've been better], wrap up the series and then move on.

"But I think the other Test matches this weekend showed that to go that route, to pick your strongest team, and still lose could probably be even more counterproductive.

"You can never be sure that you're going to beat Wales, regardless of the team you pick. They're always going to be tough and it will be tight to the end.

"Now we have answers on some of the 42 players in our group. That was the point, our plan. What if we played our 'first-choice' XV and still lost? Then we wouldn't have given these players an opportunity tonight."

The nature of the Boks' combination meant that a lack of rhythm and cohesion would be a risk and it duly turned out to be a problem as their indiscipline, particularly in the final quarter, proved telling.

However, while Nienaber bemoaned a lack of accuracy, he couldn't fault the players' commitment.

"We asked for intensity. With some guys playing in their first Test, most of them coming from different tournaments despite their great form, Test rugby is a different stage," he said.

"Small margins cost you games. It's important for the players to understand that and experience it. The players would've learnt a lot from it as we did. Accuracy is everything at this level.

"Yet the players brought the intensity, lots of it. Could the execution have been better? Definitely."

The Springboks depart for Cape Town on Sunday, where the deciding Test will take place next week.

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