At the weekend the Bulls faced a strong Benetton Treviso side. A brutal and physical first half performance made for an exciting game but the Italian side came out after the break with no sense of humor, the boys were there to take that trophy home. And that is just what they did, beating the Bulls 35-8 in the Rainbow Cup Final. A well deserved win for Benetton. But what does this mean for SA Rugby?
Nienaber is definitely not losing sleep over the Bulls loss, in fact, he recalls the example of 2019's Super Rugby tournament explaining that performances at franchise level does not influence problems at an international level.
"If you look at our World Cup year, you'd see that our franchises didn't perform too well in that year's tournament," Nienaber said from Bloemfontein on Monday, where the Springbok camp continues to swell in terms of numbers. The Springboks selected from European side Sale Sharks will be joining the Springbok Camp in Bloemfontein later this week, with other players to follow shortly.
"None of our teams made it past the quarter-finals, but that doesn't necessarily mean the national team will be good or bad. We can't use it as a gauge." Jaques Nienaber
We've all thought that our sides travelling to play European sides is a positive thing. It's truly a tough competition and it's a strong challenge for our younger players to go out and adapt weekly. We surely need to get our teams more involved with European sides in the near future?
"Yes, it's nice having some guys in the group who've played overseas this season, but it's not the be-all and end-all. Like I've said, franchise rugby results and international results don't always correlate." Jaques Nienaber
How will our SA club teams fare against the Lions? There is no doubt that the Lions will be the favorites in those club games, because how can you doubt the best players that England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales can produce? It is clear that they will be favorites. I am just excited to see one of our clubs do a job on the Lions, and my guess is that its going to be a Bulls side that wants revenge for a sad weekend in Italy.
Nienaber and Erasmus have a good thing going. They work extremely well together and we have seen this through the years of success they have in each others company. Erasmus has always been a good coach but this last stint he had with the Boks in 2019 was nothing short of incredible. Nienaber has had an interesting journey but has also proved himself as a coach and mentor to so many successful players across the world, not only South African players. He has that valuable experience needed. I am certain that we are going to see the bond between Erasmus and Nienaber rub off on the boys in the training camps, my honest feeling is that this team is going to be nothing short of brilliant.
Our senior players will also have a massive role to play in the leadership and decision making out on the pitch. The likes of Frans Steyn and Morne Steyn, the excitement is going to be immense when the ball gets handed to one of these Steyn's and its expected to fly over from 60m out for a series winning kick! Just remember that The Rugby Punt-it called it first!
But on a more serious note, it will all come down to execution on game day, the team that hits their mark and makes successful gains every week will be the team to get the W on game day. My prediction is that the Springboks that haven't played rugby in nearly 24 months will win the Series 2-1. And what a statement that will make! Go Bokke!