Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Boks confident of winning Rugby Championship with split squads

Head coach Jacques Nienaber insists they will have two fully competitive teams they believe can win both matches.

The Springboks are determined to win the Rugby Championship despite admitting that they will be splitting their squad for the opening two games of the competition against the Wallabies at Loftus and All Blacks in Auckland.

Last week, SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus explained that, with the tight nature of the competition in a World Cup year, he didn’t believe the Boks could realistically field a team to beat New Zealand after flying across time zones and facing them just a week after the Aussies.

Thus necessitating the need to send a large group over for them to acclimatise and prepare in advance ahead of the massive match.

Competitive teams

This won’t be the first time the Boks have done this under the tenure of Erasmus and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, with the management team having done it in 2019, (when Erasmus was head coach) with it working out in the end as they drew against the All Blacks in New Zealand and won the Rugby Championship.

Nienaber explained that like that time, the Boks wouldn’t be fielding ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides against the All Blacks and Wallabies, and that it would be two fully competitive teams that they believed could win both matches.

“It will not be an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ side. It will be similar to what we did in 2019. If you look at the team that played against Australia then, who started that game, I think a lot of people at the time thought that it would be an A and a B side,” said Nienaber.

“Beast (Mtawarira) started against Australia and he started in the World Cup final. Bongi (Mbonambi) started against Australia and he started in the World Cup final. Lood (de Jager) and Eben (Etzebeth) started, Pieter-Steph (du Toit) started.

“We will probably do the same. It will be a side that we believe will be good enough to beat Australia here at Loftus.”

Injury concerns

Nienaber further admitted that the Boks had a good idea of the team they wanted to send to New Zealand ahead of that match, but that they still had some tinkering to do due to injuries in the squad.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea (of who to send). But there are still a lot of things that need to happen, like last week with Handre (Pollard) and with Damian Willemse struggling with injuries,” explained Nienaber.

“There will still be issues like that. We have an idea of what we would like to do but it is still too early for us to say, ‘listen, it is going to be these guys’.

“We do team selection almost every day and know if we had to go now, who we would take. In our minds, we are pretty much aligned.”

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