’Nobody misses a kick at goal on purpose’: Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber keeps faith in Handre’ Pollard’s boot
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DURBAN - While Springbok fans have been getting themselves into a froth about Handre’ Pollard’s horror night with the boot against Australia last Sunday, coach Jacques Nienaber has calmly picked him for the return match against the Wallabies while also not calling up “insurance” on the bench.
The Boks left 10 points up in the Gold Coast air when kicks at goal went astray in the 28-26 defeat to the Australians and social media has been awash with gallows humour regarding Pollard’s unhappy goal-kicking, and to a lesser degree that of back-up kicker Damian Willemse, who missed only one kick - despite it being a sitter.
Many critics felt that for this Saturday’s match against the same opposition, Nienaber would at least call up an ace goal kicker to the bench in either Morne Steyn or Elton Jantjies, but the coach has kept the status quo as far as the backline and its reserves are concerned.
In fact, Nienaber has made only two changes to his starting line-up — one of them enforced because of the concussion suffered by lock Lood de Jager (he is replaced by Marvin Orie) and the other a rotational change at loosehead where Trevor Nyakane comes in for Steven Kitshoff, who reverts to the bench and Ox Nche drops out.
Nienaber says he went for minimal change because he thinks “unemotionally” about team selection.
“When you look at things unemotionally, it helps a lot,” he said. “Nobody misses a kick at goal on purpose. Nobody knocks a ball on because they want to and nobody misses a tackle just for the sake of it,” Nienaber explained.
“Looking at last week’s game unemotionally, one would quickly realise that we could’ve still won that game and nobody would’ve said anything.
“We wouldn’t have had this debate about a contingency plan (for the goal-kicking). Yes, there were issues that we have to think about in the kicking game but also on defence. We weren’t on song in both departments and we’ve had to work on that, and that is a better solution (than pushing the selection panic button).”
Nienaber added that inside the Boks squad, performance is appraised objectively and not in the subjective manner of those outside the Boks’ inner circle.
“We always want to be objective.
Regardless of the result, we’ve got a report card template that we go through after every game,” said Nienaber.
“Sometimes, out of 12 big issues that we’ve identified for a match, we’d sometimes only tick four out of 12 items but we had won the game by 20 points.
“It doesn’t mean we played well. We’ve had matches where we’ve lost and actually ticked 11 out of the 12 boxes. The only one we didn’t tick is the match result box.
“Sometimes you play well and lose, sometimes you play poorly and win, so it’s important to look at things from an unemotional point of view.”
The Boks have dropped to second place on the Rugby Championship ladder and if they are to secure the title they have to win on Saturday (9am kick-off, SA time) and then beat New Zealand on successive weekends. That is an extremely tall order but Nienaber says it is attainable.
“Our next three matches will be similar to playing a quarter-final, semi-final and final if we want to defend our Rugby Championship title, and we are under no illusions about what it will take to achieve this.”
Springboks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse