'Hung him out to dry': Springbok coach defends Kwagga Smith
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber named a few changes for his side’s do-or-die second test against the British & Irish Lions, including elevating the relatively inexperienced Number 8 Jasper Wiese into the starting side.
The 25-year-old Wiese, who plays for the Leicester Tigers in the Premiership, joined the Springboks squad in 2021 and got his first taste of international rugby against Georgia, before starting for South Africa ‘A’ in the 17-13 warm-up win against the Lions.
Head coach Nienaber explained that both players were always in their plans and they wanted to use their combination in different ways.
“Jasper Weise was part of our plans, he played in the test match against Georgia, he came off the bench and Kwagga started,” Nienaber explained.
“It’s a nice combination for us. It’s nice giving him a start and then we can use Kwagga for all his speed and impact that he brings off the bench this weekend.
“We feel that is playing to our strength.”
With Duane Vermeulen still out of action for the series after an injury in the Rainbow Cup, many felt the Springboks missed his presence in the first test. Nienaber said that Vermeulen is obviously a quality player, but Kwagga Smith has his strengths also.
The head coach then put his hand up to say that he ‘hung him out to dry a little bit’ with the way they used Smith in the backfield, not giving him enough protection under the high ball. He said it would be one area they looked to tactically alter for Wiese.
“How can I say… you don’t get man-of-the-match in a World Cup final if you aren’t a quality player,” Nienaber said of Duane Vermeulen.
“Duane [Vermeulen] is a quality player but so is Kwagga.
“Kwagga was good on the weekend, I think tactically, I wasn’t that sharp in terms of protecting him on the high ball.
“As a coach, I could have done it better. I spoke to the team about it, they know about it, and we will definitely look tactically to how we can change a couple of things in terms of that.
“So I think I almost hung him out to dry a little bit there.”
On why Wiese has been given a start, Nienaber highlighted his form in the English Premiership as a reason for his selection and was confident he could replicate that form on Saturday in the second test.
“Jasper, the reason why we started looking at him is he was doing very well in the Premiership. His actions in the Premiership when you look at his stats, in terms of his carries and how dominant he was, that’s why we selected him.
“We just want to see, whatever Jasper did to get into the squad, we want to see that on Saturday.”
“I’m sure he will give that to us.”
On whether the Springboks need to change the game plan or execute the current one better, Nienaber was confident that the current plan will work with better execution with just five points between the sides in the first test.
“We were five points short of the British & Irish Lions,” he said.
“We need to get five points more, so in terms of the game plan, I think we were unfortunate we were over the try line three times, only one awarded. I think there were opportunities for us.
“For reasons we all know, some of those opportunities weren’t allowed.
“I think we just have to improve, like I said after the match, in the second half we didn’t handle the contestable kicking game from the Lions.
“We didn’t handle that as good as we could have. There was tactical errors from my side. We worked incredibly hard in the week to rectify that.”
“We just need to get five points more.”
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