OPINION: Jacques Nienaber must now stick with a winning Bok combination
Even if Elton Jantjies is fit, Damian Willemse must continue to wear the Bok No 10 jersey.
Damian Willemse should be backed to play at 10 again when the Boks clash with Argentina next weekend. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
In sport, when a team with their backs to the wall wins, coaches will generally stick with the same players for the next match.
Because, if it ain’t broke, why change it?
Well, that’s the big challenge now facing Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber after his side’s under-pressure win against the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend.
Does he stick with the men who performed so well to win 24-8 or does he continue to tinker and change his lineup, something he has done all season long, for the next match against Argentina in Buenos Aires next weekend?
Having been forced to make so many changes to last week’s team because of injuries to key players and the fact the Boks performed so poorly in the first match against Australia in Adelaide, one of two things were going to happen in Sydney: the Boks would struggle again because of all the changes and the pressure on them, or they’d adapt, do things a little differently and outplay the Wallabies for the win.
They did the latter, thankfully, but how much was that down to the Aussies actually being a fairly average side, the Boks being so much better, or the fact the several personnel changes worked a treat?
The up-tick in performance, and ultimately the victory, was probably due to all of the above, but for me, bringing Damian Willemse in at 10 was crucial, Willie le Roux taking over at 15 was key, Malcolm Marx starting was massive, while the dropping of off-the-pace players to the bench was needed.
Injuries to Lukhanyo Am, Handre Pollard and Bongi Mbonambi, who join Cheslin Kolbe on the injured list, forced Nienaber to think a little differently for the Sydney game. It was perhaps a blessing in disguise.
Willemse, so good at fullback this year, showed he may well be the Boks’ next 10, Canan Moodie too showed he has a bright future, and Le Roux showed he is far from being done.
The Boks looked good on Saturday; perhaps their best showing in 2022?
And while Elton Jantjies may be fit for the Buenos Aires match, giving the coach the option of recalling a specialist 10 and shifting Willemse back to fullback, perhaps Nienaber must now stick with a winning combination.