RUGBY: Springbok coach Nienaber’s match squad gamble should pay off

RUGBY: Springbok coach Nienaber’s match squad gamble should pay off

Since returning to the Springbok setup in 2src18, head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus have taken a series of calculated risks when selecting their teams and squads. 

Those risks have yielded some monumental long-term rewards – such as a World Cup title and a series victory against the British & Irish Lions.

The policy of splitting the squad into “A” and “B” teams has been criticised as much as it’s been lauded. The results, of course, speak for themselves.

Nienaber and Erasmus have struck a balance between winning matches and developing the wider squad with the future in mind. 

Young and inexperienced players have been granted opportunities, and a number of combinations have been trialled over the past four years.

Nienaber’s latest move may appear extreme, but the Boks could reap the benefits later this year and, more importantly, at the 2src23 World Cup.

Rotation up for grabs 

The latest selections are particularly bold and risky, even by Nienaber or Erasmus’s standards.

Nienaber made 14 changes to the starting XV – and 19 to the match 23 – ahead of the second Test against Bloemfontein. Those changes include two debutants in the run-on side and a further four uncapped players on the bench.

The timing of these changes has caught many by surprise. Nienaber himself previously suggested that the fringe players would only receive an opportunity in the event of the “A” team winning the first two Tests and taking an unassailable lead in the three-match series.

The coach hinted at the prospect of further opportunities for these fringe players in the Rugby Championship fixtures against Argentina, and for the South Africa A side on the tour to Europe in November.

Since the first Test, however, Nienaber has had a change of heart. The upshot is that every member of the 43-man squad – 

bar flyhalf Johan Goosen, who is still recovering from long-term injury – will have had a run for the Boks over the first two Tests of the season.

Though this policy will rob the Boks of the chance to build some momentum, it will ensure that they tick the box of squad development.

Welsh slam Bok development plans

South African fans and critics have welcomed Nienaber’s willingnes

…. to be continued
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