The Bok team, still smarting from a shock loss this past weekend, have reverted to a full-strength matchday squad in what will be a must-win Test against Wales in Cape Town on Saturday.
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No one could have predicted what has transpired over the first two Tests in the series against Wales. Initially, the Springboks were expected to claim a comfortable victory in the opening encounter between the two teams, but ultimately had to rely on a late penalty to avoid an embarrassing loss.
The Bok coaches then rolled the dice by taking a massive gamble in overhauling the entire squad for the second Test, with just three players retaining their place in the Boks’ match-23.
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Such a radical selection led to an understandably disjointed performance, as well as a historic first-ever loss to Wales in South Africa.
Now, in a column for Rugby Pass, Jake White has said Nienaber “missed a trick, and may have been unduly influenced by Rassie Erasmus.
“Making 14 changes obviously didn’t work for the Springboks and personally, I think Jacques Nienaber missed a trick. What I’m expecting on Saturday is massive amounts of pressure that he didn’t need,” White wrote.
“I’m told his rationale for picking that second Test team was because he wanted that group of players to know what it was like to win a series, he didn’t want them to just be playing a dead rubber in the third Test.
“To answer that, I’d say I don’t think there should ever be a dead rubber Test when you’re playing at home. The job of a national coach is to win Test matches. National coaches shouldn’t use Tests to see if players are good enough, that is what A sides or training is for.
“I don’t know if Nienaber picked that team on his own, he may have discussed it with Rassie and others but you’re not a national coach to learn lessons. You learn that at age-grade or club level – I mean that sincerely – there’s a reason people go through a system to become national coach.”
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Notably, the column from White drew a response from Erasmus, who pointed out that White himself had been involved in a selection controversy before winning the 2007 World Cup as Bok coach.
In fact, Erasmus also points out the ‘experimental’ team picked by White himself, which suffered a heavy loss to New Zealand.
BOK TEAM TO FACE WALES IN CAPE TOWN
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 17 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – 19 caps 18pts, 50pts (10t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 27 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 59 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 26 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 61 caps, 613 pts (6t, 83c, 131p, 4d)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 3 caps, 5 pts (1t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 12 caps, 0 pts
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 59 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 64 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 57 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 99 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 47 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 49 caps, 50 pts (10t)
1 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 55 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 48 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 60 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) 33 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 52 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 20 caps, 5 pts (1t)
21 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap, 0pts
22 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 37caps, 25pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 73 caps, 60 pts (12t)