Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber stressed that South African teams have plenty of adapting to do when going into test match rugby mode. Getting into that Springbok frame of mind might be a bit of a strange feeling for the men in green, but for some it might be rather easy. Taking a look at the squad that Nienaber has selected, he has gone for a very specific type of game that he wants to play.
“What I can say is that the United Rugby Championship is going to be a very beneficial competition for our teams,” Nienaber said. “It is very different to what we are used to, you have to adapt week in and week out to playing teams from different countries, the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian teams all play differently and even in each of those countries, the teams vary their tactics.”
With this being said, we can expect that Nienaber has prepared for the challenge ahead, he seems confident on his squad and the ability and talent the men posses. In my opinion he is going to play a similar strategy that which Rassie used in the 2019 RWC. I doubt he will mirror Rassie's excellence but I do believe he will use it as a guide and add his own twist and thoughts to the already successful strategy. With a lot of the tactical guidance coming from crucial players like Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard and the bomb squad, we can expect a kicking game with a bit more attacking flare from deep with the likes of Fassi and Kolbe attacking in broken play.
The Springbok camp in Bloemfontein is slowly increasing in size as the players start joining from their overseas clubs. “Our goal for this week is to introduce everybody (the players) to how we do things in the Springbok camp, how we talk and how we operate. We also want to squeeze in the last bit of conditioning we can. We can focus on conditioning this week as we don't have to taper for a Test match (this weekend),” said Nienaber.
The selected players are already in such a good physical condition, all that Nienaber and the coaching staff will really need to do is work on team building and bonding the side as much as possible to make a tight knit "family" feel within the group. I am sure that conditioning is important but how much fitter can you really get in a week?
Set pieces and unity within the team will be something they will focus on closely.
Looking back at 2019, the last time the Springboks played a Test match, the gents were in a phenomenal physical shape.
Take a look at the chaps. They are in shape to say the least. When was the last time you saw a 120kg Prop forward with abs? I will tell you for free that you haven't seen one.. EVER!
What do we do against Georgia?
The opening Test match will take place against Georgia, so do we play a strong side that would feature against the Lions or do we play conservative and run the uncapped Springboks? Georgia has some big boys in their side so we can expect a physical matchup. I am excited to see our forwards carry ball and make some big steals at the breakdown. What we do is play a running game in the first 20 minutes, taking the ball to Georgia, running hard at them, make them tackle, make them run. We start playing the kicking game after about 20 minutes where Faf sticks them high for his wingers to chase. It is highly likely the opposing fullback returns a kick deep where Fassi is waiting to gather and attack in broken play. This is where having a strong attacking 15 will benefit the Boks. I am not saying that Willie isn't an attacking Fullback, I am just saying that we often see Willie make a kick from deep looking for territory or we see him joining the line on the attack in 22 where he often sets up a brilliant try, instead of trying to score from his own 22m line. Fassi will give us that versatility and pace at 15.
Familiarize yourself with these names, you are likely to see them as headlines in the paper in a few weeks!
The eight uncapped players are Joseph Dweba (hooker), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (lock), Jasper Wiese (loose forward), Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf), Wandisile Simelane (center), Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman (both wings) and Aphelele Fassi (fullback). There is so much talent amongst these exciting players. Nienaber has honestly selected one of the most versatile sides we have ever seen in Green and Gold.
There are however some players we can expect to not see on the pitch in the first test against Georgia. In a repeat of the Champions Cup final, Kolbe and Toulouse teammate Rynhardt Elstadt will be in action against La Rochelle in the Top14 decider this weekend, with Nienaber explaining that the duo will be pressed for time considering that they still have to accommodate their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine before flying out.
“Cheslin and Rynhardt are playing on Saturday and I think they're only flying back on the Monday and we are playing the Friday, so I do not think there will be enough time to get them on board and back into our way of doing things."
“They will probably only arrive in South Africa on Monday or Tuesday. There are selectors and logistical matters that will also play a role, but personally I think it will be a tough ask for them to play in the first Test against Georgia."
What a pity! I was looking forward to seeing Kolbe break some Georgian ankles on the weekend, that man is such a talent to the game and such an inspiration to younger players looking to make their mark in the side. I don't doubt that he will still have some quick feet in the next Test Match.
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This coming week is an exciting one for us, the fans. We are preparing for the biggest test matches since 2019 and the excitement in South Africa is unreal. People are talking about the rugby coming up and I am yet to hear a negative comment on our Squad!
Keep it up South Africa, and as always... Go Bokke!!