Nienaber: Rugby ‘would be unbelievably boring if everybody played the same way’

South Africa coach hits back at critics of Springboks’ playing style

South Africa outhalf  Morné Steyn  kicks the ball upfield during the third Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

South Africa outhalf Morné Steyn kicks the ball upfield during the third Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has batted away accusations the Springboks play a dull brand of rugby and believes the real boredom in the sport would stem from all teams trying to play the same away.

The Boks beat the British & Irish Lions 2-1 in their recent series but were accused of being ‘boring’, with New Zealand coach Ian Foster suggesting the second Test put him to sleep with the forward-dominated kicking game that both teams employed.

“That’s the beauty of rugby, there’s different ways to play and distinctive styles. It would be unbelievably boring if everybody played the same way,” Nienaber told reporters on Tuesday.

“Take the World Cup for instance, we played probably the most attacking team [Japan] in the quarter-finals and then you had to change the whole mentality against a team [Wales in the semi-finals] that played a massive kicking game that meant you had to make plans to outsmart them.”

Nienaber said each team will play to their strengths and for the Boks that means power and a strong set-piece.

“I don’t think there is one specific style [that has to be played], it is determined by the players you have,” he said.

“New Zealand will have certain athletic attributes and will create a game plan to amplify those special characteristics. We will have a different [type of] player and will look to amplify our athletic abilities. Playing styles differ because the athletes differ.”

The Boks are likely to tinker with their approach for their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina on Saturday though, having selected a team with 10 changes, including a debut for hooker Joseph Dweba, that will look to try and run more with ball in hand.

Nienaber says they do not mean to “disrespect” Argentina with the changes, but with five Test matches on consecutive weekends, there is a concern over player welfare after the Springboks did not play for 20 months following their 2019 World Cup triumph.

“It is a long season, so it’s important that we manage the players well and rotate our squad to ensure that everyone gets sufficient game time and rest,” Nienaber said.

“We have a talented squad, and we are excited to see some of the players get a chance to show what they can do against a tough Argentinean outfit.

“Joseph is hard worker and a mobile hooker, which will be valuable traits against a physical side such as Argentina.”

Elton Jantjies has taken over at outhalf, with the hero from Saturday’s 19-16 win over the Lions, Morné Steyn, among the replacements. Cobus Reinach has retained his place at scrumhalf.

Jesse Kriel and Frans Steyn make up the centre pairing, while the back three contain wings Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi, and fullback Damian Willemse.

It is all change in the front row of the scrum with Dweba and props Wilco Louw and Ox Nche, but the locks are the same with Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth to feature.

The backrow is made up of captain Siya Kolisi, fellow flank Kwagga Smith and number eight Jasper Wiese.

Nienaber confirmed that key loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit will be out “for some time” after undergoing shoulder surgery following an injury picked up in the second Lions Test.

SOUTH AFRICA: Damian Willemse; Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn, Aphelele Fassi; Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach; Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba, Wilco Louw; Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager; Siya Kolisi (capt), Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Dan du Preez, Herschel Jantjies, Morné Steyn.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.