Habana: Bok coach faces fine balancing act
SPOTLIGHT: Springbok legend Bryan Habana says Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber is facing a “fine balancing act” when it comes to selections during their end-of-year tour.
Despite a few injuries to key players, Nienaber has a largely settled squad with only two uncapped players in the 32-man group in the form of lock Salmaan Moerat and Grant Williams.
Nienaber has maintained that he is targeting consistency in terms of selections hence the lack of new faces in key positions. However, there have been calls for the Bok coach to give someone like Aphelele Fassi more opportunities in the green jersey.
Meanwhile, Williams was with the squad on their away leg of the Rugby Championship but he hasn’t come close to selection, while Moerat has been on the Bok radar for some time with his progress was halted by a serious neck earlier this year.
The tour could also be a good opportunity for Nienaber to test some new combinations with the players he has in the group.
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“I think the expectations and the standards they [Boks] set as a group are really high,” Habana told reporters during Tuesday’s end-of-year series launch.
“Jacques Nienaber and Siya Kolisi and the rest of the quad will be hoping to continue the form they showed [in the second Test] against New Zealand.
“They are coming up against some stern opposition up north to test their mettle in a very different way.
“I think Nienaber has a fine balancing act in terms of using some of that experience that has garnered many a title and success over the last two or three years, but also expose a new group of young Springboks into that fold.
“I know Jacques is very big on winning and he puts that paramount to everything else. They would be bitterly disappointed with the general consensus of the Rugby Championship and how that fared in the first three games [in Australia].
“They would have felt they were unlucky, but I’m assuming the last game against the All Blacks [which the Boks won 31-29] will be exactly how they would want to record victories.
“I know there will be a three-from-three goal in place and they will be focussing on that first game against Wales, where they haven’t had much success over the last half a decade.”
‘They will be heavily tested’
Habana believes the Boks have shown a lot of resilience this year.
“There were a lot of questions asked during that Lions series, but I think the way the Springboks came out of the rugby wilderness, the mental resilience that team showed was paramount,” said Habana.
“They got found wanting against Australia in the countries’ second Test of the Rugby Championship, but they proved in the last game against the All Blacks that they are worthy world champions.”