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'We had a reality check' - Nienaber rates the 2021 Springboks out of 10

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

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South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has rated his 2021 Springboks team out of 10 – a year in which the World Champions re-entered Test rugby after a near two year pandemic hiatus.

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While the Boks completed their main assignment, defeating the British & Irish Lions on home soil, they lost to England in the Autumn Nations Series and also fell to loses against Australia (twice) and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

Nienaber, speaking on Super Sports First XV in South Africa where he was questioned about where he saw his Boks, marked his charges pretty hard.

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“We have just done a proper review of our 2021 season and I think, to be quite honest, I would probably give us a six out of 10,” said Nienaber. “There is lots of room for improvement.

“It’s not just in one area. We had a reality check of almost all our high-performance areas. I don’t want to go into too many specifics.

“This isn’t a 6/10 to get empathy from people. I honestly believe our squad is better and we are better than how we performed last year. Obviously, the challenge is now to try and fix it in 2022, to build on it.

“There were some good foundations that we laid in 2021. Thinking of where we came from, not playing any rugby in 2020. For us, it was about getting back on the horse, beating the British & Irish Lions while doing that, playing in the Rugby Championship and getting used to bubble life.

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“This year will be a big year in the sense of building on what we started in 2021 with the end goal of 2023 in mind.”

The Springboks are scheduled to face Wayne Pivac’s Wales in three Test matches in July, before hosting the All Blacks and Argentina in the Rugby Championship in August and September.

“We are well underway with our planning for the year, and our knowledge of these teams after facing all of them last season will be vital as we forge ahead in this regard in the next few months.

“Wales, the All Blacks and Australia tested us well last season, and Argentina have proven to be a force to be reckoned with, both at home and away, so although we are expecting a challenging season, we realise the importance of laying a solid foundation as we build up toward next year’s Rugby World Cup.”

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Castle Lager Incoming Series fixtures:
Saturday, 2 July: Springboks v Wales – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday, 9 July: Springboks v Wales – Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday, 16 July: Springboks v Wales – DHL Stadium, Cape Town

Castle Lager Rugby Championship fixtures:
Saturday, 6 August: Springboks v New Zealand – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday, 13 August: Springboks v New Zealand – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Saturday, 27 August: Springboks v Australia – venue TBC
Saturday, 3 September: Springboks v Australia – venue TBC
Saturday, 17 September: Springboks v Argentina – Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Saturday, 24 September: Springboks v Argentina – Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban

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