The 'quite honest' warning the Springboks have issued to the world
It doesn’t look polished on paper for Jacques Nienaber, his Springboks only winning seven of their twelve matches this calendar year with one fixture remaining – this Saturday’s encounter away to England in London. The July home series versus Wales was only clinched 2-1, they were only good enough for second place in The Rugby Championship after winning four of their half-dozen matches, while their Autumn Nations Series tour began with two losses before Italy were beaten last Saturday.
Think Nienaber is worried? Think again. The Springboks head coach is showing no signs of anxiety that his team is currently running at only a 58 per cent success rate for 2022 compared to, say, World Cup hosts France, who are 100 per cent with ten wins, and RWC pool opponents Ireland, who are 81 per cent with nine wins from eleven.
The Nienaber message coming out of London in the lead-up to the final Springboks game of this year was that they are nearly ready to capably defend their World Cup title in ten months’ time, a campaign that will feature a seminal group clash with the Irish in Paris before a likely quarter-final meeting with either the French or the All Blacks, again in Paris.
“People want to know that we are getting answers but that is the thing on this tour and especially this game (with England) where we play this Test match out of the (player release) window – and the SA A games, we wanted to see certain players play with a Springbok on their chest,” began Nienaber when quizzed whether this Autumn Nations Series tour had ticked the boxes the Springboks wanted to tick.
“Although it is against clubs, you play for your country so it is a little more pressure and we wanted some answers on certain players and we got some answers on certain players, and the same on Saturday.
“We always want to improve and develop and build our game in all the aspects and we are trying stuff just like all the other teams are trying. If you look at it, although we had two narrow losses against the No1 and No2 teams in the world away from home (Ireland and France), I have to be quite honest, we internally know that we are not far off being contenders for the World Cup next year and the world knows that we are not far off.
“We are still building and we are still trying to get some results and get some answers in certain aspects but we certainly believe and know we are not far off being contenders and I think the world knows that as well.”
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