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DURBAN – Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says that playing the All Blacks and Wallabies without having warmed up against their players in Super Rugby will make no difference to his team’s chances of beating the Antipodean sides.
When Super Rugby was paused in March last year as the world went into lockdown, it ultimately meant the end of the competition in the format that had run since its inception in 1996, with South Africa aligning with the northern hemisphere for its future provincial competitions, and New Zealand and Australia doing their own things.
Nienaber said from Brisbane — where the Boks are preparing to play the Wallabies next Sunday — that it is of little consequence that his players have had no interaction at provincial level with their counterparts from New Zealand and Australia.
“Yes we have not been exposed to their individual players as we were for so long but Test rugby is different to Super Rugby,” Nienaber said.
“In 2019, the Jaguares and Crusaders were in the final while our teams fared badly and our best performer was the Bulls, who made the quarters, but we went on to win the Rugby Championship that year.
“So I don’t think that it is that important that we might not know some of their players that well —from a team perspective, Test rugby is different and the Rugby Championship is arguably the toughest international competition.
“The four teams are in the top seven on the World Rugby rankings (SA is No 1, New Zealand is No 2, Australia is No 6 and Argentina is 7); and we have to play four Tests away from home, two of which are against Australia, who will have significant home ground advantage.”
Nienaber says the Boks are anticipating the Australians and Kiwis playing differently to the Pumas and the British & Irish Lions.
“New Zealand and Australia have a similar style of play — they are more open, faster, and have a continuity style that is similar to how the Lions played against our franchise teams,” he said.
“They like keeping the ball alive but if it is not on or they have slow ball, they also play the percentages. However you look at it, we know we are in for four unbelievably tough matches.”
Nienaber said he was unaware of comments made a few days ago by former All Black coach Steve Hansen, who said the Boks and the Lions had produced “a game that nobody wants to watch.”
“I have been too busy with quarantine and doing our preparation for the Wallabies to be looking out for comments like that,” Nienaber said.
“But regarding playing styles, each country has its own skillset, its own unique DNA; and you play to your DNA. That is the beauty of rugby … There are different ways to win matches.”