Nienaber: ‘Hostile environment’ to test Boks

Jacques Nienaber is hopeful of an improved defensive effort from a Springbok team in a “pressure situation” when they take on Argentina in Buenos Aires. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Springboks go into the match on Saturday in second place in the Rugby Championship, tied on nine log points with Argentina and Australia.

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However, the Springboks’ defence has been less than secure, conceding 90 points and nine tries in four games. Argentina, by contrast, have conceded 129 points and 16 tries, but that has been exaggerated by their seven-try 53-3 loss to the All Blacks in Hamilton.

“To be honest, I don’t know what the stats are currently. If you asked me what our tackle completion rate is, I would not be able to tell you. It’s not something that I follow,” said Nienaber.

“If you concede four maul tries and your opponents convert all of them, the score will be 28-0, but you would not have missed a tackle,” the Bok coach went on to explain.

“From my perspective, are we where we should be in terms of winning a World Cup? Probably not. There are a couple of reasons for that.

“If you look at our team selection, we haven’t had a massive focus on continuity. Even though we want to win every single Test, our minds aren’t currently focused on getting consistent team selections. We are thinking a bit broader, giving guys like Elrigh [Louw] opportunities in big games like this one on Saturday. This will be a semi-final and one of the biggest games Elrigh has played in.

“Consistency in selection always leads to consistency in performance. That’s not to cover up for the defence.

“We aren’t where we want to be, but there are reasons for that. There are definitely certain stats that we look at, but they aren’t the normal tackle completion stats, there are other KPIs that I look at.

“Are we ticking those? Not to where we should be if we want to win a World Cup.”

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Argentina have recalled veteran hooker Agustin Creevy, centre Jeronimo de la Fuente, who returns from a hamstring injury, wing Juan Imhoff and prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro for the upcoming two Tests against the Springboks.

“This is a game Argentina will definitely target. If you look at their squad selection, it’s definitely a sign of that,” said Nienaber.

“We are under no illusion in terms of what we are going to get. We are up against a physical Argentinian side, that has knocked off Australia and New Zealand. They would love to knock off us as well.

“That’s why we are treating this as a semi-final, but it’s also important for us to test players, to see how they will handle this pressure situation. There will be a lot of heat in this game.

“This is an ideal game to see if players are capable of handling a hostile environment.”

Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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