How Nienaber can win with split squad
OPINION: On Tuesday, July 4, Jacques Nienaber will unveil his first matchday squad of 2023 – the year that the Springboks defend their World Cup crown.
Of equal significance will be those in the squad and those NOT in the squad to face the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld.
Nienaber, along with South Africa’s Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus, has made no secret of the fact that they will make use of the ‘split squad’ system in the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship.
While one group of players prepare for the tournament opener against Australia at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday, July 8, another batch (about 13 to 15 players) will head off to New Zealand to prepare for the Round Two encounter with the All Blacks in Auckland on July 15.
It is a delicate balancing act – ensuring there is enough quality in Pretoria, while starting the build-up for the #BIG encounter against South Africa’s arch-rivals.
The tricky part comes when selecting front row forwards, where having two quality sets on call at Loftus and another equally or even more powerful set fly off in advance ahead of the Mount Smart Stadium face-off in Auckland.
Scrumhalf and flyhalf may be a touch more flexible, but also require some nuanced decision-making.
Lock, loose forwards, midfield and outside backs allow for more ‘utility’ selections.
I had a look at the 40-odd players that gathered for a couple of productive weeks in Pretoria.
(Rassie Erasmus explains how the players and management will be split for New Zealand…)
From that, I selected two matchday squads – one to face the Wallabies and another to start against the All Blacks.
There will be some overlapping, with some players playing off the bench in one Test and then being involved in the other, or some starting in the first Test and then playing off the bench in New Zealand.
It is a stab at a formula Jacques Nienaber can use in the next fortnight – not that he would ever listen to me!
Two Springbok Test squads
Versus Australia: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Canan Moodie, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Vincent Koch, 18 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Deon Fourie, 21 Evan Roos, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Versus New Zealand: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Vincent Koch, 18 Stephen Kitshoff, 19 Evan Roos, 20 Rudolph Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Francois de Klerk, 23 Damian Willemse.