Nienaber backs Bok ‘strike’ team

The coach predicts a tough match against the All Blacks, but believes the team will give a strong enough performance to beat the hosts.

Head coach Jacques Nienaber is confident the rejigged Springbok line-up to face the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday can clinch the Rugby Championship title.

Nienaber earlier today named 10 of the 14 Boks who last week travelled to New Zealand early – nine of who will start, including skipper Eben Etzebeth, and again opted for a six-two split on the replacement bench in favour of the forwards, which mainly comprised players who helped beat Australia in Pretoria.

South Africa will lock horns with an All Blacks side coming off a mauling of Argentina in Mendoza, and with a shortened Rugby Championship in a World Cup year, this weekend’s game at Mount Smart Stadium is likely a tournament decider.

“We planned to select a squad with a few key combinations of players who are fully acclimatised and settled in New Zealand while also selecting some players who started last week, and we are pleased with the balance we were able to strike with this squad,” said Nienaber.

“This allows us to give some players their first taste of international rugby this season alongside a group of players who come off a physical clash against the Wallabies, and we believe this will be beneficial against a top opponent in the All Blacks.

“The fact that we can give a few other players in the bigger squad a run this weekend is fantastic, as we want to give as many players as possible game time with an eye on doing well in the Championship and further ahead in the Rugby World Cup.”

Of Etzebeth’s return, Nienaber said: “Eben has been working very hard in the last few months to make a full recovery from his shoulder injury, and it’s great to see him return to the field in this important fixture.

“He’s a vastly experienced player with 110 Test caps; he’s captained the Springboks before, and he has been with the group of players in New Zealand for over a week, so he is the ideal person to lead the team this weekend.”

Looking forward to the clash against the All Blacks, Nienaber expects the Boks to face a thorough test.

“New Zealand have a strong pack of forwards and dangerous backs, and they showed last week what they can do when they have the space to convert their chances into points,” he added.

“We need to deliver a strong performance in all departments, and our defence needs to be solid against them. This is an important match for both teams, with each team only playing three games in the competition this season.”

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