The 'exactly what you need' Springboks approach to facing Ireland
Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has explained the logic behind his six/two ‘bomb squad’ split to face Ireland this weekend, adding that the November tour opener in Dublin is ideal given that the teams will clash again just ten months from now at the World Cup. Next year’s September 23 Stade de France encounter between the title-defending South Africa and high-flying Irish is already one of the most anticipated matches at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Nienaber is limbering up for that tournament by taking the Springboks on a four-match tour across the coming weeks, starting away to Ireland before moving on to visit France, Italy and England.
The Springboks will open their schedule with a six/two forwards/backs split on their Aviva Stadium bench, Nienaber deciding to pick scrum-half Faf de Klerk and full-back Willie le Roux as the only two backs named in his eight-strong list of replacements.
“The reason for the six/two split is we had a good look at the strengths of Ireland and we feel the combination of the six/two split and also the combination that we selected at the back three is probably going to give us the best possible advantage against Ireland,” explained Nienaber after naming an XV containing three backline changes and the same starting pack from the September 24 win over Argentina.
“That is the reason for the six/two split. We all know one of Ireland’s strengths is their multi-phase attack, their fitness, and the speed of their breakdown so we think selecting that combination will serve us the best. If you look at Ireland across the board, there is a reason why they are currently No1 in the world and they have beaten New Zealand in New Zealand.
“They have got a well-balanced game. Everybody sees their attack and how well they attack and how they keep the ball in hand but they are the best defensive side in the world currently, conceding the least tries, the least points.
“I don’t think you can put your finger on one thing. They are well-balanced and that is why they are No1 in the world, that is why is such a challenge for us to come and compete against Ireland in Ireland in the Aviva, which is a fortress for them. It’s a nice challenge before the World Cup knowing we are going to play them in the pool stages.”
How pivotal an Autumn Nations Series is it with that World Cup pool encounter now just ten months away? “For both teams, this will be quite a big game especially if you have a little bit of your eye on the World Cup when we are in the same pool,” reckoned Nienaber.
“For both sides, it will be important to have a proper performance and what you would like a year out before a World Cup is you want to play the No1 team in the world away from home and you want to test yourself against them.
“This end-of-year tour we are playing some proper teams. Ireland week one, No1 in the world. Then the French, Six Nations champions, No2 in the world. Then we play Italy, and we all saw what Italy did in the Six Nations against Wales in the last game, and then we move on to England. This is exactly what you need.
“We are happy that we have a tour like this before you go into a World Cup and for everybody, this will be a big tour – for us, for Ireland, for England, for teams that are touring, New Zealand, Australia because you want to build some momentum going into the World Cup.”