Jacques Nienaber says there were specific reasons for certain team selections that caught some by surprise ahead of the first Test against the British & Irish Lions.
The Bok team for the opening Test of the series was named on Tuesday, with captain Siya Kolisi cleared to resume his duties after overcoming Covid-19.
Following the announcement, Nienaber, who also had Covid-19, said he expected a brutal battle against the tourists, who have matched their physicality with enterprising play by the backs so far on their tour to South Africa.
“The forward battle is going to be as tough as it gets, so it’s important that we pitch up physically and ensure that we make our presence felt in the set pieces and at the contact points,” the Bok coach explained.
“This, combined with their hard-running backs, will test our defensive system, but we have been looking forward to these matches since the Rugby World Cup concluded and we have done our homework, so it is a case of doing everything at 100% and sticking to our structures.”
Nienaber allayed concerns that introducing players who had recovered from Covid-19 could place his team at a disadvantage as they prepare to face the best of the best in the northern hemisphere.
“Some of the players didn’t have Covid-19 symptoms at all, they have been managed according their individual needs, and they have really impressed me with their intensity and enthusiasm at training,” he said.
“The well-being of our players is of paramount importance, so we have been working closely with the medical team to work out what would be the best course of action for each player over the three-Test series.”
“We have played three matches in the last few weeks with the Springboks facing Georgia and South Africa A lining up against the British & Irish Lions and the Vodacom Bulls, and the first two matches in particular allowed us to settle a few player combinations that haven’t played since the Rugby World Cup final,” said Nienaber.
“We planned our team selections carefully, which is why it was important for us to play a third match after the second Test against Georgia was cancelled, and we know what the players we selected can do.
“The fact that most of the players participated in the Rugby World Cup means they know one another well on and off the field, and as coaches we know what they have to offer after having worked with most of them for several years.”
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