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Springboks blast back after 'unfit, unskilled' criticism from NZ

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

The under-pressure Springboks have fired back at their critics from New Zealand, insisting they don’t care what Rugby Championship rivals from outside their camp think of them. It follows a week where ex-All Blacks coach Laurie Mains claimed that South African rugby has “slipped back” due to its clubs no longer playing Super Rugby while there was also a headline allegation made elsewhere that the Springboks were “unfit, unskilled and demoralised”. 


With Jacques Nienaber’s team coming off the back of successive defeats to the Wallabies, critics in New Zealand have been queueing up to take a pop at the Springboks ahead of Saturday’s round five Championship meeting in Townsville with the All Blacks. 

Former All Blacks boss Mains claimed: “One of the major problems that South African rugby faces is that over the last two seasons, they haven’t been able to play in the Super Rugby competitions and because of that, their rugby has slipped back.”

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Springboks midfielder Lukhanyo Am on his team’s leaky defence versus the Wallabies
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Springboks midfielder Lukhanyo Am on his team’s leaky defence versus the Wallabies

Meanwhile, another critic alleged in the New Zealand Herald: “The world champions don’t appear to be worthy of the title. The South Africans appear unfit, unskilled and demoralised. Their scrum is inconsistent and their connections between forwards and backs almost non-existent.”

It was early September, in response to a question from RugbyPass about criticism of South Africa’s style of play by Steve Hansen, that assistant coach Mzwandile Stick memorably retorted: “There is a saying I believe in, a dog doesn’t bark at the car that is standing still. He just pees on it. A dog only barks at the car that is moving, so people always have a view. 

“The Springboks in the past probably weren’t winning games and people didn’t really pay that much attention to us, to what we did and how we played at that time, but now we are winning so you have to expect that people will always talk about you. It’s something we have made peace with and it doesn’t bother us. It is what it is.”


Coach Stick has now doubled down on that dismissive response, putting the boot in again when the latest criticisms about the Springboks were put to him at the virtually held eve-of-Championship-match media conference in Townsville. “We actually don’t care what they think,” he replied. “It actually doesn’t bother us. We are focused on what we can do better, on improving the way we play. So what other people out there say about how we play the game, it really doesn’t bother us. People are entitled to have opinions on all that stuff but we don’t focus on negative stuff. That is the main thing for us, we focus on what we want to do as a team. That’s all.

“The most important thing is that we need to be in control of our system, we need to be in control of how we want to play the game. A big week like this, playing against the All Blacks, it’s massive for the players. Even us as coaches, this is the game you want to be part of so it is very important that emotions need to be in the right place. We don’t need any motivation when we play against the All Blacks. 

“It’s a big game. We all know what is coming. They will play according to their strengths and we also play according to our strengths, so we don’t have to change anything. We just need to get better at what we do. Maybe against Australia in the second game, we stepped away from our strengths but that is the main focus for this week, just to make sure that we get better at how we want to play the game.

“And regarding the occasion, to me just to play against the All Blacks is massive. The guys are excited and we have done everything in our power to make sure we get better from where we were against Australia and hopefully things will go according to the plan tomorrow.”



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