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Questions surround Boks' six-two bench split after Ellis Park defeat

REACTION: The Springboks might need to rethink their six-two bench split after it was placed under pressure once again with an early backline injury in Saturday’s clash against New Zealand.


The All Blacks scored early and late in their second Rugby Championship Test against the Boks in Johannesburg to set up a 35-23 victory over the home side.

Leading 15-0 after 30 minutes, New Zealand were overhauled by the Boks with less than 15 minutes to play when SA held a 23-21 lead, but that was snuffed out by two late tries by the visitors.

For the second week in a row, the Springboks had to overcome the loss of a backline player in the opening minutes.

Jesse Kriel had to leave the field after he tried to tackle Caleb Clarke, with the NZ wing’s high knee action leaving the Springbok defender dazed. Faf de Klerk suffered the same fate in the Round One clash in Nelspruit.

Kriel was replaced by Wille Le Roux, who moved to fullback. Damian Willemse was shifted to inside centre with Damian de Allende on his outside and Lukhanyo Am was asked to cover the wing.

In fact, it is the third game in a row where the Boks’  backline was put under pressure early in the game.  In the third Test against Wales, wing Cheslin Kolbe was taken off early with a fractured jaw.


Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber admitted that having only two backline players on the bench is a risk.

“The six-two bench split sometimes works for you and sometimes against you,” said Nienaber.

“I think since we have been back, we have coached 45 games and we’ve probably gone with a six-two split more than 30 times and it did bring us some positive results with a World Cup win and series victory over the British & Irish Lions.

“In saying that we know it is a risk if you get a backline injury and it’s just unfortunate.”


The story continues below…

Missed opportunities

The Springboks created several try-scoring opportunities without reward and that proved to be the difference between losing and winning.

“We were over the tryline three times, but we got zero points for that and rightly so,” said Nienaber.

“But we created the opportunities – just sometimes it goes for you and you score those tries.

“There were nice opportunities but sometimes it goes against you.”

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