'You just take it, maybe it is my bad, my mistake...'
Springboks prop Trevor Nyakane has addressed the issue of gamesmanship in rugby following last weekend’s incidents in his team’s Rugby Championship defeat to the Wallabies. South Africa were beaten 25-17 in their round three match with Australia in Adelaide and a major talking point in the aftermath was the level of niggle that the hosts applied to try and get decisions to fall their way.
A prime example was how Nic White milked the penalty and yellow card from Faf de Klerk on the blow of half-time, bringing football-like play-acting into rugby. It was the type of frustrating incident that can distract a team as they feel a sense of injustice, but Nyakane explained how the Springboks manage these setbacks rather than allow them to cause anger and a loss of concentration.
Having started in the round one win over the All Blacks in Mbombela, the 33-year-old front-rower has been recalled to the bench for this Saturday’s rematch with the Aussies in Sydney and he shared his thoughts on gamesmanship at a midweek media briefing ahead of the round four fixture.
“At the end of the day, we all try to do whatever we can to come out victorious,” he said. “Whether people outside are saying there is foul play or not good sportsmanship, whatever, that is for them to worry about. We have to focus on ourselves and whatever decisions are made it [our reaction] is always, ‘Go into the next battle’.
“We just try and look for more battles and you say sometimes you will lose some but at the end of the day you will come out winning more than you have lost. Certain things happen in the game but we just try to not let it stick in our minds.
“You just take it, ‘Okay, maybe it is my bad, my mistake why something like that happened to me, put it behind your back, take ownership of it and try to move on again’. We just try and get into the play as much as possible. Yes, things do happen but the best way to deal with it during the game, because you can’t change anyone’s mind, is to put it behind your back, get onto the next battle and try to win that.”
Nyakane, the seasoned Springboks prop with 57 caps, now plays his club rugby in France with Racing 92. Asked if there is greater licence given to players to express themselves at club level compared to Test level with South Africa, he shrugged: “It’s international rugby.
“In provincial rugby you see players expressing themselves and doing certain things. In the Springboks, you still have the licence to do that. In any team, there will be structure but at international level, the space and the time that you have to execute those skills is very short.
“Defence is very good, every player in the field is just as good as you are so we try to give the guys as much as possible to express themselves but within our structures. I always say our structures will protect you and put you in a position where you as a player can use your X-factor skills and do whatever you can, whether it is to evade, whether it is to bump people or do a sidestep, the system allows for that.
“That is how I see it. It’s just that it is a bit difficult to execute here because the defence is just as good, everything is learnt to the t and where at provincial level sometimes you have got the space and time at international level that space ad time gets taken away very quickly.”
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As someone who is living with a family of Ukrainian refugees, whose home and male family members are being hit with missiles daily, I'm shocked you are calling professional rugby players refugees. My last company closed their doors thanks to an unpaid tax bill, I don't think that makes me a refugee, do you? They lost their jobs, as have hundreds of thousands thanks to the economy and COVID and have been fortunate to find work albeit the other side of the world. I'm pretty sure they are living a good life. We are not going to feel sorry for themGo to comments