Nienaber lifts lid on ‘unfortunate incident’ which led to high risk selection

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has explained the circumstances that led to Willie Le Roux being replaced at fullback by a forward against the All Blacks.

The Boks delivered a record 35-7 victory over New Zealand in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up game at Twickenham, but there was a bizarre and risky line-up deployed by the South African brains trust.

The late injury withdrawal of le Roux, who was replaced by back row Kwagga Smith, came after the fullback failed to recover sufficiently from a knock to the ribs at a Springboks’ training session.

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It saw a seven-one split in favour of the forwards on the replacements bench.

“It was an unfortunate incident and we didn’t want to risk Willie.

“With the way games have been playing out, there are times when your forwards have to play in the backline, and this offered us the same option.

“It gave us a taste of how to manage things if we perhaps get an injury in a match. Obviously, the least risk would be selecting a five-three split, and a six-two split holds a little more risk, and then a seven-one split is the most-high risk.”

Nienaber pointed out that a primary focus for the team before their first Rugby World Cup match against Scotland in Marseille on Sunday, August 10th, was to make the most of the on-field opportunities afforded to them.

They did that, with the Springboks managing to score five tries compared to the one try scored by the All Blacks, even if a few tries did go begging.

“This was a proper test, and it was exactly what we wanted before the World Cup,” said Nienaber. “Wales play a different style of rugby to New Zealand, who pride themselves on their high intensity and high tempo game, so it was good preparation for us.

“That said, we have hard work ahead before the World Cup. We had several opportunities to score tries which we didn’t convert, so we’ll zoom in on that in Corsica and hopefully we can improve on that before our opening match.”

Meanwhile, returning captain Siya Kolisi said that the Boks ‘couldn’t hold back’ against the All Blacks in front of 80,000 baying fans at Twickenham.

“It was amazing to see the number of South Africans lining the streets on the way to the stadium. The coaches told us before the match that whenever we need them they are here for us, and they came out strongly today.

“That’s why we couldn’t hold back in this match, we had to give it all, and we did that as a team.”

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