Nienaber: Boks have plenty of respect for Argentina

Coach Jacques Nienaber says the wholesale changes made to the Bok team in no way reflect a lack of respect for an Argentina side that is willing to “put their heads in dark places”.

On Tuesday, Nienaber named a new-look side to take on Argentina in this Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener, with a total of 12 changes to the match-day squad which won the third and final Test in the Lions series in Cape Town.

However, he started out a media briefing on Tuesday to reiterate the need for player welfare, while insisting the numerous team changes did not imply the Boks would be underestimating Argentina.

“In the changes we made, there’s zero disrespect to Argentina and we had this conversation with the players. Since the World Cup, they’ve played seven Tests and they’ve only lost one. There’s no disrespect, but we have five big Tests on the trot.

“We’re in a position where we have to look at player welfare, so the changes are player welfare-driven more than anything else. There are some strategic goals that we’d like to achieve, with the first one being to win, while the other is the creation of squad depth.”

Nienaber added that the Boks held Argentina in the highest regard.

“One of the big strengths is that Argentina know each other really well and are a very tight-knit group. They are strong and very smart tactically, with a clever coaching group. We will have to work really hard to break them down because they boast a phenomenal defence and have an attack with fast wingers who can score from turnover.

“Argentina are also a physical side, defensively well organised, and are willing to put their heads in dark spaces. On attack, they can create magic from nothing. They can keep the ball and run through, or give you the ball and defend their way to a win. So, I really believe they’re a well-balanced side with quality across the board.”

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Craig Lewis