Coach Jacques Nienaber has defended the Springboks’ approach in the Rugby Championship match against New Zealand on Sunday which ended in an agonising 19-17 defeat.
Despite previous criticism of their playing style, the Boks persisted with their aerially-dominated game plan via a barrage of box kicks from Faf de Klerk and up-and-unders from Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux.
While it did bring them a measure of success against the All Blacks, it was the players’ persistence with that exact tactic when they were in attacking positions on the field that has now been questioned.
More often than not, when South Africa were in New Zealand’s half of the field, they kicked possession away without attempting to employ varying attacking options.
When asked if they should’ve switched things up a bit against the All Blacks, Nienaber was emphatic.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “People always say ‘attack space’, and that’s how you play rugby, but if they have 14 in the front line and only one in the back, then there is unfortunately not a lot of space in the front line,” Nienaber explained.
“I back the players to make good decisions, and sometimes the space is in behind.”
“If we can create a one-on-one with a passing game or a one-on-one in the air, you create the same thing. It depends where the space is, and that’s where our players are told to attack.”
“The moment we get a one-on-one, whether it’s in the air or through running or passing, then we will attack that space.”
Overall, the Bok boss was happy about his team’s improved performance following their two lacklustre displays against the Wallabies.
“I thought it was a proper Test match when No 1 and No 2 play against each other. There are small margins and obviously we have our DNA and they have their DNA,” said Nienaber.
“Rugby will be unbelievably boring if everybody plays the same tactic. We might not do the same tactics next week, like they might do the same tactics.
“I thought the game plan worked and that we had opportunities. I thought they had opportunities.”
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