Bok coach keeping his cards close to his chest
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was keeping his cards close to his chest, less than a month out from the opening encounter in the three-Test series against Wales.
Nienaber started working with a group of 17 players at a national camp in Pretoria this week – made up mainly of Sharks and Japan-based Boks.
That group will eventually swell to 40-odd, as the Stormers, Bulls and players based in Europe complete their obligations with their respective teams.
Nienaber admitted he has a ‘good idea’ how his 42-man squad will look, but he kept his cards close to his chest about the starting XV for the first Test against Wales – at Loftus Versfeld on July 2.
“We will have to sit down and see about injuries, also when did the players join the group – look at which players we had plenty of time to work with,” Nienaber told @rugby365com.
“There are many factors that will influence the team that we will select for the [first] Test against Wales.
“The starting XV has not been finalised in my head just yet.
“There are plenty of injury concerns and it also depends on how much time we have to spend working with players.”
He also declined to get into a debate on the merits of his selections – especially around players who may miss the eventual cut.
(Continue below …)
“We’re not going to speculate on the squad and that’s why we haven’t announced it,” Nienaber told a virtual media briefing.
“They are currently playing with their franchises and to [avoid] speculating on who’s in and who’s out, that’s the reason we delayed the whole announcement of the squad so that they can focus solely on preparing for Leinster and Ulster.
“They must perform, but I’m not going to speculate on players who are not in the squad.
“If you look at the squad, the moment the Sharks fell out, we pulled their players in.
“Of the guys who joined us, there’s a good blend of guys who are experienced – like Siyamthanda [Kolisi] and Lukhanyo [Am] – but there’re also youngsters like Grant [Williams], Ntuthuko [Mchunu] and Aphelele [Fassi].
“There is some good experience on one side and a good number of young players.
“I think it will be the same with the other teams when they fall out.”
Nienaber said his biggest challenge is to ensure there are ‘development blocks’ for players.
He said with the Springboks still competing at international level in the Southern Hemisphere (Rugby Championship) and the franchises competing in the Northern Hemisphere URC and other Euro competitions) they will have to “box smart”.
“We have plans in place for developing our international players,” Nienaber said about affording individuals time to work on their strengths and weaknesses.