Boks must rediscover their 'soul'
South Africa remains a team that thrives on defence and playing without the ball.
That is the gist of the message from Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber in the build-up to the 100th Test against the All Blacks in Townsville on Saturday.
Despite the last fortnight – 40 missed tackles in back-to-back defeats to the Wallabies – the Boks coach believes his team will be up for the occasion in the Round Five Rugby Championship outing.
Nienaber said they were “brutally honest” in their review in the wake of last week’s horror show in Brisbane and the 17-30 loss to Australia.
He spoke of the line-out mauling and scrums as ‘positive aspects’ to come out of the review.
The defence guru said they will work on improving that aspect of their game – after slipping an unprecedented number of tackles in the last two outings.
“We are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us,” he said, adding: “We know what we have to do to stay on the right side of the scoreboard this weekend – strong defence, accurate execution and capitalising on our point-scoring chances will be key.”
However, the key aspect is that the Springboks must rediscover what their ‘soul’ is.
“[We must look at] what we do as South Africans and what we enjoy doing, then go back to that,” Nienaber told @rugby365com.
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He said the important part was not to get too bogged down by last week’s result and focus on what’s ahead – the 100th match against New Zealand.
He admitted the Boks tried to play too much rugby against the Wallabies and will need to revert to a more ‘tried and trusted’ template.
“Australia probably beat us at our own game,” the Bok coach said.
“I do think we got caught up a little bit in that [playing too much rugby].
“We had a good look at that, in terms of what our soul is.
“I am not saying we don’t need to play rugby, but we must play when it is on – when the opportunities are there.
“We probably pushed it a little bit when the opportunities were not on. We forced the issue in terms of carries.”
“It’s always a massive task to face the All Blacks,” said Nienaber, whose team need to improve their discipline and accuracy, making too many mistakes at crucial times against Australia.
“They have skilful players who thrive on turnover ball and who know how to capitalise on point-scoring opportunities, so we know we need to deliver a quality 80-minute performance against them to turn the corner after two disappointing defeats.”