With the Springbok match-day squad overhauled for a second successive Test match, coach Jacques Nienaber has attributed the changes to managing the players’ workload while building squad depth.
South Africa will take on Argentina on Saturday in the second round of the Rugby Championship and Nienaber has made wholesale changes to the team that secured a comfortable victory against the Pumas last week. The starting XV features 11 changes – six in the backline and five up front – and the match-23 shows 17 changes in total.
Commenting on the thought-process behind making multiple changes, Nienaber explained: “A few players didn’t play last week after a physically demanding Lions series, and are now back in the mix, while we also wanted to give a few players who have worked hard at training over the last two months a chance to get some valuable game time.
“This is a long season, so we need to get the balance right between building consistency in selection and in our performances, managing the players in terms of their workload, and building depth within our squad.”
The coach was also full of praise for Lood de Jager – who made his Test debut in 2014 and was named SA Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2015 – as the lock is set to become the fourth player this season to earn his 50th Bok Test cap.
“Lood is a stalwart, and his work ethic is admirable, so we are excited to see him achieve this big feat,” said Nienaber.
“It takes special character to feature and perform consistently at international level and to play 50 Tests for the Springboks, and Lood is certainly deserving of this accolade.”
Nienaber was also pleased to see Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg earn a place among the replacements after making appearances for the South Africa ‘A’ team against the British & Irish Lions and Bulls last month.
“Nicolaas has been with the squad since our conditioning camp in Bloemfontein in June and it has been great to see him get stuck in at our training sessions, so this is a fantastic opportunity for him,” said the Springbok coach.
Zoning in on the fixture, Nienaber said the Boks are expecting Argentina to come out firing this week.
“Argentina will come hard at us, so we know we need to perform much better than last week to get the desired result,” he said.
“While we were pleased with the victory and to start our Rugby Championship campaign on a winning note, there was a lot of room for improvement in our performance.
“We’ve identified a few areas we need to work on if we want to defend our title successfully, and we will work on those aspects of our game at training this week.
“Argentina plays with a lot of passion, much like we do, so they’ll want to show their fighting spirit, which will set the scene for another challenging Test match between us.”