VIDEO: Illness almost cost Boks their captain
REACTION: Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber endured a few nervous hours in the build-up to his team’s opening match in the Rugby Championship.
South Africa started the defence of their title, won in 2019, with a comfortable 32-12 win over Argentina in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Outscoring Los Pumas by three tries to nil, the Springboks continued the impressive defensive form that helped them beat the British and Irish Lions series just a week ago.
It was not flawless, but the Boks showed they remain the team to beat and walked away with a bonus-point win.
The coach, Nienaber, revealed in his post-match reaction that captain Siyamthanda Kolisi was a doubtful starter – after waking up Saturday morning feeling ‘under the weather’ and suffering from a stomach bug.
“Hats off to him [Kolisi] for getting stuck in,” Nienaber said about his captain, who lasted 54 minutes before being replaced.
“I told him to tell me if he felt he would struggle, but hats off to him and the medical team.
“He played a big role from a leadership point of view and he had to ‘vasbyt’ [hang in there].”
The coach also revealed that backup scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies had suffered a hip pointer injury in training.
(Article continues below …)
Jaden Hendrikse was a late call-up to the Springbok bench and made his debut as a replacement in the 72nd minute – scoring the bonus-point try in the 79th minute.
“Herschel [Jantjies] took a knock to his hip [in training] on Tuesday and trained on Wednesday.
“However, credit to him. He came to us and said he was struggling, so the next guy [Hendrikse] was drafted in.”
Nienaber also pointed to the ‘squad system’ as one of the success stories of the day.
The Boks made 10 changes in their starting team, from that which beat the British and Irish Lions 19-16 – to clinch the series two-one – a week earlier,.
“We are playing five big Test matches in a row,” Nienaber said, while addressing a virtual post-match media briefing.
“The new guys were nice and fresh.”
The coach explained how the ‘non-starters’ played an “active role” in the preparations for the Argentina game.
“I don’t like the word ‘rest’,” Nienaber said.
“The guys who didn’t start today [Saturday] didn’t rest. They had a role to fill in preparing the team. It’s not like they train less. They just play a different role,” the coach added.
“We are only now a third into our season, so we will have to box smart in how we try and keep players fresh.”
Kolisi said that he had every confidence in the team’s ability to cope with the changed line-up.
“The one thing that I love about this team is that there are no ‘senior’ players or anything like that, and everyone had their own job,” he said.
“If something goes wrong in the maul, at the breakdown or in the scrum we know who to look to fix it.
“We were never in a panic today [Saturday], we were in control a lot of the time.”