Nienaber rubbishes talk of 'B-team Boks' for Bloem: 'Tell that to Handre or Eben'

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Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • Springbok mentor Jacques Nienaber has rubbished suggestions that his team for Saturday's second Test against Wales is a proverbial B-team. 
  • He says team management will never pick a match squad they don't believe can win any game as keeping a winning habit remains SA's biggest strategic objective.
  • Picking these new players with a series on the line is also the type of pressure Nienaber believes those men need to be exposed to ahead of the World Cup.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has emphatically rubbished any perception that his "radical" selection strategy for Saturday's second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein is reckless in general and disrespecting of their opponents.

In an eye-catching but hardly unusual move, the national coaching staff chose to only retain four of the 23 that did duty in last weekend's 32-29 win at Loftus, sending a clear message that this new group needs to grasp the type of pressure that can be expected in next year's World Cup in France.

In fact, Nienaber is convinced a combination captained by Handre Pollard, who returns at flyhalf, can secure an early series victory.

"We'll never choose a team we believe can't win. I've said it many times before. This isn't a platform for development," he said on Tuesday.

"You have to perform. That's the most important and only requirement. It will be tight because we're facing a Wales team desperate to still win this series. That's this team's pressure. The other side wanted to make a good early start last weekend. They ticked their box."


15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse

Moreover, the Bok mentor believes labelling the combination that will do duty at the Free State Stadium as a proverbial B-team is patently insulting.

"I don't think I'd take offence, but Handre and Eben [Etzebeth] will. Our biggest strategic objective will always be to keep momentum, which is to win. We've picked a side we believe can beat Wales," said Nienaber.

"We want to tick a fair few boxes in this series. This selection strategy isn't unique. People may ask why we're making so many changes, but France are doing it too and they're definitely not labelling their squad in Japan a B-team.

"Sure, there are a few guys being left behind but it doesn't mean they are weakened. Wales did the same in the Six Nations against Italy, they didn't disrespect them, they just felt there were other answers on offer in that match."

Naturally, one of the other main questions that will be asked is whether securing the series first should've been a priority.

But that would defeat the purpose of placing the relevant group of players under the type of pressure team management believes is vital for the squad dynamic at next year's showpiece tournament.

"Why not wait until the series is wrapped up? Because you want to see these guys perform under pressure. If we're going to take them to a World Cup and play New Zealand, you need to be sure everyone can perform under pressure. That's not always the case when a series is wrapped up early," said Nienaber.

"It's like a final for them, as it is for Wales. They didn't come here to compete, they want to win this series and are currently in survival mode.

"The team that played last week made this team selection possible. We had a plan with all 42 players in our squad and told them of it. Everyone knew that this was our thinking, there was just doubt about whether it was doable. The win obviously gave us an opportunity.

"If you look at the guys who are deemed 'new' and some 'older new' guys like Marcell Coetzee and Warrick Gelant, there's a bit of a blend. We have the not-completely-new and the debutants. We tried to strike a balance with our combination."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.

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