Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Boks in ‘a better position’ despite missing out on trophy, says Nienaber

“We built some squad depth and some players got some experience."

Despite missing out on the Rugby Championship trophy on the final day of the competition, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber believes the team are in a much better position than they were at the start of the season.

Looking ahead to the November internationals where the Boks will come up against the world’s top two teams, France and Ireland, on their home turf, Nienaber is happy to have built some depth in key positions, particularly at right wing with a stiff battle for the jersey set to be waged.

“We built some squad depth and some players got some experience. That wasn’t the main aim, which was to win the Rugby Championship, and we fell short on that, but there were some positives to take out of it,” explained Nienaber.

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“We are in a better position now in terms of learning about certain positions than we were when we started. There was always this big issue around flyhalf and whether Damian (Willemse) could play there and hats off to Frans (Steyn) today, in a very short space of time he had to slot in and he will just get better in terms of that,” he added.

“We’ve also had Kurt-Lee (Arendse) and Canan (Moodie) come through and now Cheslin (Kolbe) has to perform if he wants to get back in. But we know he is quality, and we look forward to welcoming him back.”

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Heading into the final game of the Rugby Champs, the Boks needed a bonus point win and an unlikely points difference win of 40 points or more to secure the title ahead of rivals New Zealand.

No fairytale ending

Although they missed a number of chances once again in the first half, they were on target leading 17-0 towards the end of the first half, before Argentina fought back to snuff out any chance of a fairytale ending.

“We had a plan to go full on to win the Rugby Championship. We were up to the task up to minute 35 and then they got a penalty and the score before half time changed the dynamics,” said Nienaber.

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“I think we can’t fault the effort from the players. We all sat down and bought into giving it as good a shot as we could. Unfortunately we came up short, but you must never take a win in the Bok jersey for granted and we won’t. It’s special,” he added.

“I am also glad that we could repay the fans. They’re probably the heroes of the Rugby Championship in my opinion. We had three sell-out crowds. We lost the one in Johannesburg but I thought we gave it as big a crack as we could in the other two.”