Pressure on Springboks after All Blacks bounce back

Pressure on Springboks after All Blacks bounce back

Jesse Kriel made an early tackle on All Black Ardie Savea but then went off injured forcing a Springbok reshuffle
Jesse Kriel made an early tackle on All Black Ardie Savea but then went off injured forcing a Springbok reshuffle. Photo: PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP
Source: AFP

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A week after enjoying the adulation of South African rugby supporters, the Springboks found themselves back at square one after losing to New Zealand's All Blacks in a wide-open southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber faced some tough questioning after his team lost 35-23 to the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.

With Argentina beating Australia in another reverse of the previous week's results, all four teams had one win and one loss after the first two rounds of the championship.

The All Blacks will try to build on Saturday's success with two home games against Argentina on August 27 and September 3, while the Springboks have a tough assignment with two matches against the Wallabies in Australia.

The win was particularly sweet for the All Blacks after they were mauled by their critics following a 26-10 defeat in Mbombela a week earlier.

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Coach Ian Foster suggested that the All Blacks were in the process of turning around their fortunes after losing five of their previous six games.

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"It's hard to win all the time," said Foster. "When you look at long-term success it often starts with adversity, with a low point. We're bringing a few young boys in and trying a few new combinations but it takes time and some people are impatient.

"I understand the frustrations, but inside the camp what means a lot to us is how we pull together, work hard and improve the areas where we need to perform."

Nienaber came under scrutiny for some of his selections, notably the decision to start with the relatively untried Joseph Dweba at hooker instead of Malcolm Marx, who was man of the match in Mbombela.

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Dweba was replacing the injured Bongi Mbonambi, who has shared game time with Marx over the past three years. But Dweba had a poor game and was replaced by Marx after half an hour.

Prop Ox Nche, who was picked ahead of Trevor Nyakane, was also substituted after 30 minutes as the Springboks were unable to replicate their forward supremacy of the previous week.

Another selection gamble that appeared to backfire was Duane Vermeulen at eight.

'Bomb squad'

Playing after an eight-week injury lay-off, Vermeulen was also substituted in the first half, when the All Blacks were leading 15-0.

Nienaber refused to discuss the selection.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster embraces scrum-half Aaron Smith as they celebrate their victory
New Zealand coach Ian Foster embraces scrum-half Aaron Smith as they celebrate their victory. Photo: PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP
Source: AFP

"There is a rugby reason why we did that but unfortunately that's privileged. Every single player knows the reason."

South Africa's "bomb squad" strategy of having six forwards and only two backs on the bench was also called into question after an early injury to wing Jesse Kriel caused a reshuffle of the backline.

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"Since I have been part of the coaching set-up, in 45 games we probably went with a 6-2 split 30 times and it won us a World Cup, the Rugby Championship and a British and Irish Lions series," said Nienaber. But he admitted the tactic carried risks.

Nienaber said the Springboks would have to adjust their tactics for their trip to Australia.

"The Wallabies will be a little bit different," he said. "We will have to change quite a bit going to them. They have a completely different style of attack and defence. We haven't had results against them for quite some time so it's a nice challenge for us."

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Source: AFP

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