Predicting Nienaber's Boks selection for Wales tour decider
Now that the ‘master plan’ – in giving all 42 players game time – backfired spectacularly, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is going to revert to his ‘A-team’ for the decisive third Test against Wales.
As Nienaber said in his post-match reaction – after the 12-13 loss in Bloemfontein this past weekend – not only did the players ‘learn a lot’, but Nienaber now knows that many of those United Rugby Championship ‘fan favourites’ may not be ready for Test rugby just yet.
Now, going into the series decider, he will shelve the ‘experimental’ teams that featured in the first two Tests and go all out for a series win.
What would that ‘A-team’ look like?
You don’t have to look much past the World Cup Final of 2019 to find the answer.
Apart from No.8 Duane Vermeulen, having undergone a minor knee procedure, and retired prop Tendai Mtawarira, the entire team that demolished England in Japan is part of the 42-man squad that was named for the Wales series.
The bench will also have a few missing names – Rudolph Snyman (still recovering from his most recent knee surgery), Francois Louw (retired) and Frans Steyn (hamstring injury) are not part of the current squad.
Most of the players from the 2019 Final select themselves.
There are a few who the fans would question and perhaps suggest they are past their sell-by date.
However, the ‘answers’ Nienaber got this past weekend will again see him lean heavily on the team that won the World Cup and also beat the British and Irish Lions last year.
Maybe there are those ill-informed and emotional fans asking for a change at fullback.
However, Nienaber acknowledged the role Willie le Roux played in getting the Boks back into the game in the first Test – his attacking expertise and running the show, along with his vision at the back.
The rest of the backline is a given.
Even Handré Pollard should get the nod, despite his shocker this past weekend.
The alternatives at No.10 are Elton Jantjies (who was even worse as the starting flyhalf in the first Test) and utility back Damian Willemse.
The replacement for Vermeulen at No.8 is blatantly obvious – one of the stand-out players of the first Test, Jasper Wiese.
Pieter-Steph du Toit will also be better for having had a full 80-minute run, despite the rustiness of his performance.
Captain Siyamthanda Kolisi is another who disappointed, in his case in the first Test, but he will be there on Saturday.
That brings us to the bench.
Albertus Smith, who started in several Tests last year and has not let the Boks down yet, will cover the loose forward positions off the bench.
Nienaber has publicly stated that Damian Willemse is being groomed to replace Frans Steyn as the utility back in the squad.
Jan de Koning‘s proposed Bok team for decider: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Albertus Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies , 23 Damian Willemse.
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