Head coach Jacques Nienaber says the Springboks are looking forward to the challenge of playing Australia and New Zealand, two teams unafraid to open the game up in the Rugby Championship.
The Springboks arrived in Australia on Friday for their Rugby Championship Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks, which will be hosted in Queensland.
Since arriving the team has gone into a quarantine with Argentina, but have been able to continue their gym sessions and full-contact training sessions.
The Boks started their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back wins over Los Pumas in Gqeberha and will resume with two fixtures against the Wallabies, starting next weekend.
Speaking during an online conference from Australia, Nienaber said he expects the Bok defence to be put under a different kind of test in their next four games, given that the Wallabies and All Blacks have a propensity to open the game up.
“I do think it’s going to be different,” Nienaber said. “If you look at Australia and New Zealand, their style of play, there’s a lot of similarities in the way they play. There’s a lot more open, fast continuity and they are big on ball in play. It is very similar to what we saw from the British & Irish Lions when they played our franchise teams, keeping the ball alive and running it.
“But they are also quality sides with quality coaches. I think if it is on, they will play it, it doesn’t matter where it’s on the field. But if it’s not on, they have slow ball, then they will try to play the percentages.
“That’s going to be the lovely test of those four Test matches. It will be proper Test matches in the sense that, if they want to open it up, they will open it up. But if it’s not on to play, they will play the territory game.”
The Springboks haven’t played either nation since 2019 and will, for the first time in over 20 years, go into the fixtures without the benefit of having faced their Super Rugby teams first.
However, this isn’t something that Nienaber is too concerned about.
“I think that Super Rugby is different to Test-match rugby. We have seen this. If I think back, the last time there was a full Super Rugby and Rugby Championship was 2019. The Jaguares and Crusaders played in the final. Not one of our teams got to the semi-finals. The Bulls got to the quarter-final. That was the best of our franchises. But we still went on to win a Rugby Championship.
“So, Test-match rugby is different to Super Rugby. I agree that we haven’t played against a [Sam] Whitelock or against a [Michael] Hooper, the individual players, we haven’t seen them and their skill set. From a team perspective, I think Test-match rugby is different.”
Historically, the Tests against the All Blacks especially have been used as a yardstick to determine just how far off the Springboks are from being the best team in the world, something Nienaber is also looking forward to seeing.
“It is always nice to test yourself against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. We missed out on it last year. It’s phenomenal to have our Sanzaar group together. It’s something that, in terms of Super Rugby, I have been involved with since 1999. You get so accustomed to it, so it was hard when we didn’t have it last year.
“You almost wonder where you are. It would be nice to play against them so you can see where we are currently. So, we are very much looking forward to playing against them, like we did Argentina. It’s nice for us to measure ourselves against the southern-hemisphere nations again.”
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