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'I see it that way...': Springboks react to recent heavy criticism

By Liam Heagney

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Rookie Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has reacted to the heavy criticism he and his team have endured in the wake of their latest Rugby Championship loss in Australia. Having taken over the reins from Rassie Erasmus, former assistant coach Nienaber has a record of won five and lost three following last Saturday’s deflating loss to the Wallabies. 

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However, rather than bemoan the pressure that is now South Africa ahead of their back-to-back matches versus the All Blacks, Nienaber has flipped the situation on its head and instead claimed it would be worse if there was no one criticising the Springboks as it would mean the fans didn’t care any longer about the team.  

Already ten points behind the unbeaten All Blacks with just two rounds of the Rugby Championship remaining, the title appears all but mathematically out of reach for the Springboks with two matches still to play – a situation that they couldn’t have envisaged materialising when they flew out of Cape Town last month for Brisbane having won the Lions series and defeated Argentine twice in their opening Championship games.   

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Jacques Nienaber on the need for the Springboks to rediscover their soul
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Jacques Nienaber on the need for the Springboks to rediscover their soul

They were humbled twice by the Wallabies since then, though, and it has left Nienaber, the 2019 World Cup-winning defence coach, under scrutiny as a head coach who is still getting used to all the nuances that his new position entails. “The pressure from myself and from us as a team is probably more (than from the public),” he reckoned when asked about what has been critically said about the Springboks this week ahead of their Championship clash with the All Blacks in Townsville.   

“You look at yourself first and foremost, me as a coach. You look at what happened, how we played, where you went wrong during the week (building up) and where you could have done better – and that is how we are as a team. Coaches, players, we all live together and we are honest with each other and that is what I love about this team. 

“I said this to Duane (Vermeulen), the guy I have coached the longest. I have coached him since 2006, so we can talk to each other straight up and that is probably the worst criticism, when it comes from us. We tell each other what we think and where we think we went wrong and it’s tough to swallow but for the criticism from outside, firstly when people stop criticising that is when you should worry. People criticise when they feel something for the team and I see it that way. 

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“I mean, it’s tough. Like I say, the criticism from us is worse. It’s either stop criticising each other or try and find solutions and put your finger on something that you think is not right. That is when I think something is wrong within a team but it is not wrong in this team currently. We are willing to talk open and honest about things and I know us as a team, we want to do the best for South Africa and criticism will be there.

“But my next focus, my next job is to make sure we are as best prepared for the All Blacks. To be honest, you hear it. I must say I am not on social media so I don’t know, but I am sure there will be criticism and, like I say, you must worry when people stop criticising because that means they just don’t feel anything for the Boks anymore.”

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'I see it that way...': Springboks react to recent heavy criticism

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