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The two main selection questions the Boks have answered

By Ian Cameron
Jaden Hendrikse of South Africa reacts after The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on September 24, 2022 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Head coach Jacques Nienaber believes the Springboks have answered a lot of selection questions despite falling short of winning the Rugby Championship.

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South Africa ultimately failed to defeat Argentina by the 39 points or more they needed to pip the All Blacks to the title, but the 38-19 win pleased the 49-year-old.

“We had a plan to go full on to win the Rugby Championship,” he said. “We were on task up to minute 35 and then they got a penalty and the score before half time changed the dynamics.

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“I think we can’t fault the effort from the players. We all sat down and bought into giving it as good a shot as we could – unfortunately we came up short, but you must never take a win in the Bok jersey for granted and we won’t. It’s special.”

“I am just glad that we could repay the fans. They’re probably the heroes of the Rugby Championship in my opinion – we had three sell-out crowds, and we lost the one in Johannesburg but I thought we gave it as big a crack as we could in the other two.”

Importantly for the Springboks, a number of questions were answered around selection. Nienaber used 34 players throughout the tournament, but maybe the questions around flyhalf have been answered. South Africa lost Handre Pollard and then Elton Jantjies – one through injury and there other through scandal, but Damien Willemse proved himself worthy of the 10 jersey, while veteran Steyn showed he is still able to step up when duty calls.

“We built some squad depth. Some players got some experience but that wasn’t the main aim – which was to win the Rugby Championship and we fell short on that. But there were some positives to take out of it,” he said.

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“We are in a better position now in terms of learning about certain positions than we were when we started. There was always this big issue around flyhalf and whether Damian (Willemse) could play there and hats off to Frans (Steyn) today, in a very short space of time he had to slot in and he will just get better in terms of that.

“We’ve also had Kurt-Lee (Arendse) and Canan (Moodie) come through and now Cheslin (Kolbe) has to perform if he wants to get back in – but we know he is quality, and we look forward to welcoming him back.”

“We’re not where we want to be yet. As Siya said we need consistency, and we’ll probably get a pretty good idea on our end-of-year tour. We play No 1 and No 2 [France] teams in the world and we have an SA ‘A’ side, and it will be a challenging tour. But it will give us nice answers as to where we are.”

Their next game is against the No.1 ranked team in the world – Ireland – in November.

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