Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber says both the team and he are happy to deal with the outside criticism after their back-to-back losses against Australia, as it shows how much supporters care.
The Springboks have come under fire for their poor performances in Australia as they slipped to two successive losses to the Wallabies, which has left the defence of their Rugby Championship title hanging by a thread.
With the results, the Springboks also surrendered their place at the top of the World Rugby rankings to an in-form New Zealand, who they will face over the next two weekends.
However, for Nienaber and his team, the heat coming from those outside the camp is something positive as it means that supporters remain invested in how the Springboks are playing.
“From outside, when people stop criticising, that’s when you need to start worrying because I believe when people complain they do so because they feel something for this team,” Nienaber said, after announcing his team to face the All Blacks, in the 100th Test in Townsville.
“That’s how I see it.
“I want to reassure everyone again that we’re here to serve South Africa, we want to perform for them. My focus is to make sure we’re as well prepared as we can be for the All Blacks.
“I’m not on social media, but I’m sure [there have been some strong opinions]. If it stops, that’s when I will become concerned because then people don’t care about this team anymore.”
In fact, it is the criticism coming from inside the camp that stings the team the most and that there have been plenty of harsh conversations following last Saturday’s loss to Australia.
Nienaber revealed that one of his most productive conversations has been with No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
“The pressure coming from ourselves is probably bigger than from the outside. You look at yourself first and foremost,” he said.
“We as a coaching staff – looking at how we played and where we went wrong and what we could’ve done better during the week – follow that recipe. The coaches and players, we’re in it together and we’re open and honest with each other. That’s what I love about this team.
“I spoke about this with Duane [on Monday]. I’ve coached him the longest in this group, since 2006. We can talk to each other straight up.
“In fact, that’s probably the worst ‘type’ of criticism, the criticism that comes from us. We take it. We tell each other what we think and what we did wrong. It’s tough to swallow.”
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