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Nienaber drops heavy selection hints ahead of Rugby Championship

By Jan De Koning
South Africa Head Coach Jacques Nienaber looks on during the pre match warm up ahead of the Autumn Nations Series match between England and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on November 20, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has a calculated selection strategy for South Africa’s build-up to the World Cup in France.

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However, injuries and results could result in a rethink.

Nienaber and South Africa’s Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus have split the six matches into two blocks – three Rugby Championship encounters in July and three ‘warm-up’ matches in August.

“We want to win the Rugby Championship,” he said of the goal for the first block, which would require selection of the strongest team.

Video Spacer

WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber talks about his selection strategy in the build-up to the World Cup in France

Video Spacer

WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber talks about his selection strategy in the build-up to the World Cup in France

Depending on how much momentum they manage to build up in the Rugby Championship, they may opt for more of a ‘mix-and-match’ selection for the warm-up outings.

“We want to win every Test, but there might be some rotational changes throughout the six Tests leading up to the World Cup,” Nienaber said to a question by @rugby365com.

“You want to go into the World Cup with momentum.

“We have a plan for the first three Tests – the Rugby Championship.

“However, depending on injuries and how much squad depth there is in each position, we might rejig the team.”

He said players coming back from injury – the likes of captain Siyamthanda Kolisi (knee surgery) and Jaden Hendrikse (shoulder surgery) – may be given game time in the warm-up matches if their rehabilitation allows it.

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Related

“We have a plan set out in how we want to tackle the six Tests,” he said, adding: “But we will be forced to re-evaluate.”

He said they are considering splitting the squads for the first two Tests – Australia in Pretoria on July 8 and New Zealand in Auckland a week later.

“Depending on how many players we have available, we could send 15 guys to New Zealand earlier.

“That will depend on injuries.

“However, it is something we have done in the past and may do again.”

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Rugby Championship
Saturday, 8 July – v Australia (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, 15 July – v New Zealand (Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland)
Saturday, 29 July – v Argentina (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)

World Cup warm-up fixture
Saturday, 5 August – v Argentina (Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, 19 August – v Wales (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
Friday, 25 August – v New Zealand (Twickenham, London)

World Cup pool fixtures
Sunday, 10 September – v Scotland (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
Sunday, 17 September – v Romania (Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)
Saturday, 23 September – v Ireland (Stade de France, Paris)
Sunday, 1 October – v Tonga (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)

Weekend of 14/15 October – quarterfinals
Weekend of 21/22 October – semifinals
Saturday, 28 October – Final

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