Nienaber: I may have hung Kwagga out to dry

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has admitted that they got their tactics wrong with protecting Kwagga Smith under the high ball during the first Test against the British & Irish Lions.

Smith was named as the Springboks’ No 8 for the first Test of the Lions series this past Saturday, with Duane Vermeulen continuing his rehab from ankle surgery.

While the 28-year-old former Blitzbok player was busy across the park, he was targeted under the high ball by Lions halfbacks Dan Biggar and Ali Price as the tourists scored 19 points in the second half.

Smith has been dropped to the bench for the second Test against the Lions this Saturday, which the Springboks have to win to level the series.

Jasper Wiese, who has taken Smith’s place in the starting lineup, will be winning his just his second Test cap on Saturday.

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Acknowledging how difficult it was to replace a player of Vermeulen’s quality, Nienaber admitted that the Springboks got their tactics wrong to deal with the Lions’ kicking game in the first Test.

“You don’t get the man of the match in a World Cup final without being the highest-quality player,” Nienaber explained. “Duane is a top player, but so is Kwagga and I think tactically I wasn’t that sharp in terms of protecting him with the high balls. I should have done better there as a coach.

“We’ve spoken about it and we’ll definitely see how we can change a couple of things in terms of that. I may have hung him out to dry there.”

Coming off a sensational season with the Leicester Tigers in England, Wiese will be expected to replicate his form when he makes his first start for the Springboks.

“The reason why we started looking at Jasper was that he was doing well in the Premiership and you can see that in his dominant statistics,” Nienaber said.

“We want Jasper show again what got him into the Bok squad – he broke the selection door down – and I’m sure he’ll give that to us.”

Photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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Dylan Jack