VIDEO: Nienaber regrets 'naive' coaching mistakes
Jacques Nienaber said the Springbok coaching staff are determined not to repeat their past errors when they face off against the Wallabies in a Rugby Championship crunch match in Adelaide on Saturday.
With the tournament delicately poised after two rounds – each team is on one win and one loss – the next fortnight is crucial in the tournament.
After the Adelaide outing, the roadshow moves to Sydney.
The Bok coach – speaking to the media after naming his team for the Adelaide affray – said they have done a lot of introspection in the wake of their worrisome 23-35 loss to New Zealand at Ellis Park earlier this month.
Reacting to the criticism of their disheartening submission to the All Blacks in Round Two, Nienaber shielded the players from blame for the implosion that saw them cough up the lead while having numerical superiority.
“We had a great opportunity to go back-to-back against New Zealand,” he said of a feat last achieved by the Springboks in 2009 – with a three-nil clean sweep in the then Tri-Nations.
He said the ‘positive’ is how they got themselves out of a hole – trailing 0-15 at the end of the first half-hour, closing the gap to 10-15 at half-time and taking the lead (23-21) inside the final quarter.
However, it was the All Blacks’ two-try blitz in the last seven minutes, while being a man down, that stirred much debate in the post-match wash-up.
Nienaber said the most disappointing aspect was the team’s inability to ‘close the game out’ once the Boks were ahead.
He put the ‘tactical errors’ down to decisions made by the coaching staff, not the players on the field.
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“I am not pointing fingers at the players,” he told @rugby365com.
“It is us as a group that could have handled that better.
“There were some naive decisions by us as coaches.”
Nienaber said they had a “hard look” at that aspect of the game and improve on it in their outing in Adelaide this week.
He added that Australia would also be desperate to bounce back from their humiliating Round Two loss (17-48) to Argentina in San Juan.
“Australia is always tough at home and the fact that we haven’t beaten them here since 2013 is evidence of that,” the Bok coach said.
“Much like us, they will also want to bounce back after going down against Argentina, so we expect them to come out firing.
“The fact that this will be the first Test between the teams in Adelaide will serve as extra motivation for both teams this weekend.”
The other big debate from Monday’s team announcement was the decision by the Bok selectors to switch to a five-three split on the bench.
Nienaber said he feels it is ‘tactically’ the right move for this game.
He also defended the decision to retain players like Duane Vermeulen, Retshegofaditswe Nché and Joseph Dweba – despite underwhelming and execrable performances at Ellis Park.
“We also feel it is important to give the likes of Ox [Nche], Joseph [Dweba] and Duane [Vermeulen] another opportunity to further build combinations and give them valuable game time as we build toward the World Cup next year.
“With Franco [Mostert] and Kwagga [Albertus Smith] on the bench, we will have cover at lock and loose forward, while Frans Steyn’s versatility will also be handy as he can cover centre and fullback.”
Nienaber also spoke about the players that missed out on selection – utility back Willie le Roux and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies – as a result of bringing Frans Steyn and Elton Jantjies into the matchday squad.
“We know what we have in them and what they bring to the team,” he said of the two axed backs.