Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber
South Africa’s head coach Jacques Nienaber said on Tuesday he was “excited” at what he expected to be a “proper Test match” when his defending champions face world ranked number one side Ireland in their Rugby World Cup Pool B match.
Nienaber spoke after naming his side in which veteran lock Eben Etzebeth makes his return after recovering from a shoulder injury.
It will be the first time that the Springboks and Ireland have met at a World Cup, with both sides coming into the match with two wins from two games.
Nienaber — who moves to Ireland after the World Cup to take over at Leinster — was bursting with enthusiasm over Saturday’s meeting with the Six Nations Grand Slam winners.
“I won’t say I am nervous, I am excited,” said Nienaber. “It will be a proper Test match. It is number one against the world champion.
“Both sides have a good skill set, the average age of both squads is about the same, as are the number of caps.
“It will be a clash of two teams with experienced, calm heads, two very well matched teams.”
Nienaber said it was a huge match for both sides as defeat would place them under enormous pressure for their final game and at risk of not making the quarter-finals.
“It is exciting because it will be about if we are able to handle the pressure they put us under on the day,” he said.
“Also, will they be able to cope with the pressure we put them under, it will be a game of ebbs and flows.
“It is an important game for both teams, if Ireland slip up, the Scotland game becomes a massive one and the same for us with Tonga if we lose.”
Nienaber made 13 changes to the side that dismantled Romania, reverting to 14 of the 15 players who started in the 18-3 opening win over the Scots.
The only change compared to that match sees Bongi Mbonambi take the place of injured hooker Malcolm Marx.
Nienaber was at pains to say that those left out were “not unlucky as that would be unfair to those selected” but would be just as responsible for their success if they win.
One crucial call made by Nienaber was to opt for the same seven-one split between forwards and backs on the bench that he did when the Boks inflicted a record 35-7 defeat on New Zealand in their tournament warm-up match at Twickenham.
“Obviously people will look at it and say that there is a risk involved and we understand that, but for us it is a calculated risk,” he said.
“There are guys who are in that seven-one bench that cover various positions. That is something that I won’t go into too much because it’s tactical.”
“We are comfortable that we are covered” in the backs.
However, Nienaber insisted this was not a case of copying a tactic used against New Zealand since Ireland play in a completely different way.
“We analysed Ireland and after looking at them, what they bring and what we think we will need in this specific game from a tactical point of view and trying to counter everything that they do,” he said.
As for the tournament as a whole, Nienaber pointed to a good omen for his team: the average age of World Cup-winning squads.
“We are in the ballpark. The sweet spot.”
Damian Willemse,; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt); Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach
Coach: Jacques Nienaber (RSA)
© Agence France-Presse