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'Unemotional': Springboks explain latest XV pick, Kolbe's absence

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has explained the logic behind his latest team selection, an XV that shows two changes from last Sunday’s loss to Australia, just one bench alteration and no place yet for the sidelined Cheslin Kolbe. There was criticism about a number of aspects of South Africa’s play in their 28-26 Rugby Championship loss, particularly their scrum and their accuracy off the kicking tee.  


The issue with the set-piece was addressed by the inclusion of Trevor Nyakane as their starting loosehead for next Saturday’s rematch versus the Wallabies in Brisbane, a decision that resulted in Steven Kitshoff dropping to the bench and Ox Nche, last Sunday’s sub, missing out altogether. 

Marvin Orie was introduced from outside the matchday 23 to start at lock in place of the concussed Lood de Jager, who needs seven days to come through his return to play protocol. With just six days between the two Australian matches, there was no way he could be considered for selection. Then, with regard to kicking, Nienaber opted against introducing Elton Jantjies or Morne Steyn, the last-gasp Lions series winner, following criticisms of Handre Pollard and his bench back-up Damian Willemse.  

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Springboks sub hooker Malcolm Marx reflects on last Sunday’s scrum battle
Video Spacer
Springboks sub hooker Malcolm Marx reflects on last Sunday’s scrum battle

Starting with their front row switch, Nienaber explained at his virtually held team announcement media briefing: “Trevor brings nice experience. He played loosehead for us in that Argentina match (last month) but sustained an ankle injury, coming off quite early in the first half. But he is now in full training, has come back into the mix and we all know how Trevor played for at loosehead against the Lions as well.

“In terms of Lood, he sustained a concussion and if everything goes well it normally takes seven days and because it is a six-day turnaround, he will miss it by a day but I’m sure he will be up for selection the All Blacks Test match. Lood has played 50 Test matches and Marvin has only played a handful. We lose experience there, but Marvin has got a lot of Super Rugby caps and he has been in that position, has played with Eben from schoolboy level and they know each other well. We trust him as a player.”

Switching to the wait for first-choice Springboks winger Kolbe to be declared fit following his leg injury, Nienaber added: “He ran today [Wednesday] quite well next to the side of the field and kicked and stuff like that. He is not a guy we will rush. We will wait. He hasn’t done any team training yet. At the moment he has got the full range and we are happy with his running and the medical team are happy with his gait while he is running and all those things that they look at. We will look at reintroducing him to team training and then it will be a return to play protocol that we normally follow. Currently, he is in the return to training protocol and the moment he finishes that he can start joining us in team training, then his return to play protocol will start. 


“Cheslin is an experienced guy, our medical team is experienced so we will take guidance from them. All we can do as coaches is hope he will be available for next week and the week after. We wouldn’t have kept him if we didn’t think he would be ready in the next two weeks. Projection tells us he will be available for selection within the next two weeks but it is up to his recovery.”

With faith being kept in Pollard as the starting No10, Nienaber also resisted the outside clamour for a bench rejig and has stuck by the under-fire Willemse in a six/two forwards/backs split. The utility back, for instance, copped much criticism from Victor Matfield, but he has again been chosen in reserve to Pollard. “We tried to think as unemotionally about team selection as possible,” said the Springboks coach. “If we secured the last breakdown where Nic White stole the ball, if we had a better clean-out there and we kicked the ball out and won the game by one point we would be sitting smiling here. We always look at it from an objective viewpoint. 

“There is a certain report we go through and out of twelve ticket issues we look at when we do a review, sometimes we get four out of twelve when we had a good 20-point victory but it doesn’t mean you played well. And sometimes you lose a match where we tick eleven out of twelve boxes and you don’t win the match. So sometimes we play well and lose and sometimes we play poorly and win. 

“We try to take as much emotion out of it as possible and we looked at it from an unemotional point of view. Nobody misses goals because they want to, nobody knocks the ball on because they want to, nobody misses a tackle because they want to. If you look at it unemotionally you can say we could have won the Test match and nobody would have said anything, it wouldn’t have been a debate.


“There were issues we had to fix and in the kicking game, which is my department as well as defence, I don’t think we were on song there. We were off in both those two departments and it is something we have to work hard on to fix going into the next game.”


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