Why Nienaber should give No.10 jersey to Elton Jantjies
OPINION: Reflecting on the 2021 Rugby Championship, it was a strange tournament from a South African perspective.
The reality is that the Springboks could and should have won three out of four matches in Australia, but they ended with a solitary victory and would have been disappointed to finish third.
However, having been locked up in a bio-bubble since July 2 with players and management living an unnatural existence, the fact that all their tour matches, except one, were on a knife’s edge speaks volumes.
To conclude the tournament with a win over the All Blacks on the Gold Coast was impressive in light of many people predicting that the floodgates were going to open up in the last Test.
It underlines the mentality and resilience within the current Springbok squad. They dug their heels in and were determined to get a positive result.
In the first Test – the centenary Test – the Springboks did everything right in terms of creating enough pressure and putting the All Blacks in positions they didn’t want to be in. In the 101st test, the Boks made the switch by taking their opportunities on attack.
As far as the kicking game is concerned, I don’t think the whip was being held over the Springbok players’ backs in terms of execution.
Any coach that is running a professional team needs the buy-in from players, and every week that the Springboks play, there will be a mass buy-in from the players in terms of Jacques Nienaber’s tactical methods.
Even if there is a bit of resistance from players, the large majority will buy in and the minority will go with the game plan. By all accounts, a coach is dead and buried if he doesn’t have buy-in from his squad.
If you aim to lead professional players and want them to execute the plan, you need them to believe that what they’re going to do will work. There’s no doubt in my mind that, between Jacques and Rassie Erasmus, it’s done on a weekly basis.
The Springboks’ next assignment is a three-Test tour to the Northern Hemisphere to face Wales, Scotland and England in November.
I don’t think there will be massive changes from the Springboks on a tactical front. However, it goes without saying what weather conditions the Springboks are likely to face in the UK this time of the year.
The Boks will stick to what they did well in the Rugby Championship even though it frustrated many people. It’s about the Boks layering their game and taking those opportunities that are on offer.
If Faf de Klerk has to undergo hip surgery and is ruled out of the year-end tour, it will be interesting to see who is entrusted to launch the Bok game plan.
Cobus Reinach has put his hand up every time he has played for the Springboks and the fact that he is based up north adds credence to his selection. He is a great athlete and I think we might see more of him.
Herschel Jantjies will also be in the mix but, given Reinach’s European experience, the latter might just get the nod.
Handre Pollard is still my man to play at No 10. A brief hiatus after a gruelling four months will do him good. He will be champing at the bit to get back out there and to the level that he usually plays at.
I wouldn’t necessarily look to replace him at flyhalf, but this may just be the tour for someone like Elton Jantjies to also have a run out and take responsibility.
There has been talk of Jantjies at 10, with Pollard shifting to 12 but it’s safe to say that South Africa’s midfield partnership of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am is pretty solid. I don’t see them moving away from that.
When looking back at Springbok history, I believe they will go down as one of the best Bok centre pairings. The more they play together, the more effective they become as they feed off each other.
Between the two of them, they have a bit of everything so I wouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, but we may see Pollard shift to 12 and Jantjies come on at 10 depending on what the game requires.
In terms of Erasmus, who will have his World Rugby misconduct hearing on 30-31 October, for the Springboks’ sake, I’m hopeful that he receives a fine of some sort and a warning not to transgress again rather than a ban so he can join the team on tour.
Some people are suggesting he needs to be dragged over the coals, while others are saying it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.
I don’t believe that what Erasmus did is massively punishable and I would like to think that he will travel with the touring party next month.
In this day and age, you can certainly operate remotely but I feel it would be beneficial for the squad to have him there in person.
Rassie’s presence in camp is always welcomed by the side and he adds an extra five percent in terms of what the team wants to achieve.
By Neil de Kock, @RugbyPass
Following an 11-year career with Saracens, which saw him earn 264 caps, Neil de Kock now works in the rugby division at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa. De Kock, who featured in 10 test matches for the Springboks, provides RugbyPass with expert opinion and insight focusing on the southern hemisphere sides.