Bok coach: We are now stronger as a group

Coach Jacques Nienaber says the competition among players was exciting him as his Bok team got ready for a one-week training camp in Paris that began on Monday ahead of the end-of-year tour.

The South African- and Japan-based Springboks arrived in Paris in two groups over this past weekend, and they returned to the training field on Monday to start putting the building blocks in place for their Test matches against Wales in Cardiff (6 November), Scotland in Edinburgh (13 November) and England in London (20 November).

The players based in Europe will join up with their teammates in Cardiff on Sunday.

Nienaber was excited about the quality of his squad despite missing a number of potential starters in the injured Faf de Klerk (hip flexor), Cheslin Kolbe (knee), Frans Malherbe (neck), RG Snyman (knee) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder surgery) among others.

“From a squad point of view, we are looking to build consistency in the way we prepare, train and perform, so I don’t think there will be a lot of surprises in team selection,” said Nienaber.

“The nice thing about our squad is that no one is irreplaceable.

“We played the Lions series without Duane Vermeulen and the Rugby Championship overseas leg without Cheslin Kolbe, so the players playing for their clubs know they must play well and the players in camp need to work hard to stay in the race [for selection].

“That said, all of the players in the group are hard workers, and there is good competition within the group.

“With Faf out [injured], it opens the door for Herschel [Jantjies] and Cobus [Reinach] and possibly even Grant [Williams], and this drives the standards within the group.”

Nienaber is also excited about the opportunity to spend the week in France this time of the year which is when the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be hosted and says there were a number of benefits to their training camp in Paris.

“The Rugby World Cup is still far away, and there will be changes in the group and a few injuries, although about 80% of the group could be here then,” said Nienaber.

“This week offers us a nice opportunity to experience the country and conditions this time of the year with an eye on the international spectacle.”

Looking ahead at their three forthcoming Tests, Nienaber said they would approach the tour one match at a time and that the team was in a good mindset after finishing off the Rugby Championship with a victory over New Zealand and a well-deserved break after close to four months together in which they played 10 Tests.

“Covid-19 presented different challenges in terms of the playing schedule because we usually play two games, have a bye and then play another two matches,” said Nienaber.

“This season we went straight from the Test against Georgia into the Lions series and then we faced Argentina twice at home in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship before going into quarantine in Australia and playing four back-to-back Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

“So, it has been tough. Going into the season we also learned along the way how the Covid-19 pandemic and bio-bubbles will affect us, but we are now stronger as a group.

“We had to dig deep in the last Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand but, that said, we could have won the first Test against New Zealand if I had made better substitutions and I feel we could have closed out the match better. Luckily, in rugby one has an opportunity to bounce back each week.

“We had two weeks to see our families and children again, which was fantastic. But we were excited to get back on the plane and tour again because that’s what we love – playing rugby.”


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