Jacques Nienaber has complimented his fringe Springbok players and not insulted Wales by making 14 changes to his run-on XV, writes Mark Keohane.
This is not a selection born out of arrogance or over confidence or one that is being dismissive of the threat of Wales.
This is one that speaks directly to a 2023 World Cup plan.
The Springboks leadership’s plan was always to effectively play two different teams in the opening two Tests of the three-Test series. They have done it before in the Rugby Championship, in 2019 and also in 2021.
It is no sleight on Wales who were within a kick of beating the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld a week ago.
What Nienaber and National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus have done is lay down the challenge to their own fringe players and given them the responsibility of sealing the series in Bloemfontein.
Lose, and the Boks create history in being the first Bok team to lose at home to Wales. Win and it is happy days in the build-up to the Rugby Championship and the 2023 World Cup in France.
It is one thing to talk about depth but it is another to action there words.
Kudos to the Bok leadership for being confident, strong and brave enough to back up the talk of squad depth by picking two different teams for Wales.
The visitors would have expected changes, but not 14 of them in the starting XV.
This was a WOW moment when it comes to Bok selections because it has breathed fresh energy into a Bok Test team that in 2021 was very much the one that won the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Coaches in the past have made wholesale changes once a series is decided, win or lose. It defeats the purpose of really testing the fringe players.
For Nienaber and Erasmus to do it with the series in the balance is bloody exciting.
If you didn’t know the make-up of the Test starting XV from Loftus, you’d be quite awed by the starting XV for Bloemfontein. This is in no way an inferior team. Inexperienced, yes, but not lacking in rugby pedigree.
The pack is again imposing, Handre Pollard is back as the general and given the captaincy, and the back three, while lacking the collective class of the World Cup-winning back three, don’t want for anything when it comes to promise.
Of course it is a risk because this team has never played together, but it is a risk worth taking as the Bok leadership works towards the ideal 2023 World Cup squad.
Iconic Welsh and Lions centre Scott Gibbs, in South Africa courtesy of SA Rugby Magazine, shared his thoughts on the Bok Test team and he was equally enthralled and thrilled and the risk in the selections.
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) July 5, 2022
6️⃣ uncapped players and a new captain for the second clash against @WelshRugbyUnion
🗣️ "Everyone knows they will be in for a proper Test on Saturday" – Jacques Nienaber
👉 Team announcement: https://t.co/10lditiUya#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/j5qUfC26Ip
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 5, 2022
WATCH MARK KEOHANE AND SCOTT GIBBS DISCUSS THE SPRINGBOKS TEST TEAM