'Hindsight' will have last laugh over seven-one split
INTERVIEW: South African coach Jacques Nienaber not only caused a stir, but ensured there is a massive talking point in the build-up to their World Cup Pool B crunch match against Ireland.
The world No.1, Ireland, and No.2, South Africa, go head-to-head at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.
The encounter is not only a pool decider, it will have significant repercussions for the losing team’s campaign.
Nienaber opted for the contentious seven forwards and one back split for the replacement bench.
This has raised eyebrows but it was a formula that worked well in the warm-up match with fellow three-time World Cup champions New Zealand – as the Springboks inflicted a record 35-7 defeat on the All Blacks.
Nienaber described it as a “calculated risk”.
Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby admitted the bold selection is a talking point, but does not change Ireland’s approach.
“Every team has a particular strategy and it’s up to them to believe that that strategy is the right thing for each game,” he said.
“Obviously, they believe that’s the way they need to set themselves to beat us on Saturday, just like we’ll be playing the way we want to beat South Africa.
“Listen, it’s a talking point.
“[However,] I don’t think it changes anything for us, to be honest.
“What will determine it in the end is hindsight, which will allow everyone to say it was the right or wrong thing to do. It’s their strategy and not something that we can control.”
“We haven’t tinkered with that split before.
“I can’t remember too many times [about us talking about bench split].”
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The world’s top-ranked nation will look to deliver their easy-on-the-eye style on Saturday.
However, Easterby knows that the brutal Boks will make life very unpleasant for the Irish outfit.
“We know that when we play well and we play a certain way that we’re going to be difficult to play against and difficult to beat,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to implement a lot of the stuff that you’ll have seen over the last couple of years in what we do on Saturday as we have tried to do in the Tonga and Romania games.
“We haven’t had to win ugly maybe too many times.
“It would be great if we could throw the ball around and score plenty of tries, but we know that we have to do things in the moment and make sure we’re adaptable and that might mean playing certain ways in certain parts of the game.”
He also touched on the significance of the Pool B decider.
“I think everyone knew that this was going to be the big game that we had in the first three rounds.
“We built up nicely through Romania and Tonga and have ironed out a few things in our attack.
“Same defensively, we were tested a few more times against Tonga.
“We always knew this was going to be the pivotal game leading up to Scotland two weeks after.
“We are just going about our business.
“We are really confident and trust what we have been doing, not just recently but in the last two and a half years.
“This is what we have been building towards.”