Springboks: Eben Etzebeth ‘would take offence’ over ‘B’ team accusation

Colin Newboult

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has defended his decision to rotate pretty much his entire squad for the second Test against Wales.

Nienaber has made a staggering 14 changes for the upcoming match, with only Eben Etzebeth remaining from the team that started last weekend.

In fact, there are just four players in total that featured in the first Test as the match-winner in Pretoria, Damian Willemse, drops to the bench and is alongside Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch, who were also among the replacements at Loftus Versfeld.

Many have therefore described it as a second-string outfit but Nienaber disagrees and is looking forward to seeing how this new-look squad fares under duress.

A team to beat Wales

“I don’t think I would take offence but I think Eben (Etzebeth) would take offence, Handre (Pollard) would take offence and so would other players,” he said.

“Remember when we select a team I always say that we want to keep momentum, our main thing is to win. That is our biggest strategic objective, to win. We pick a side because we think they can beat Wales.

“It will be a nice test. You can maybe say: ‘Why don’t you wrap up the series and then give them a go in the last Test?’ But you want to see how these players perform under pressure. Because if we’re going to take them to a World Cup, if we’re going to take them to New Zealand, then they must perform under pressure.

“When you wrap up a series, sometimes there is no pressure and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose because the series is wrapped up. Where these players are playing, it will be a final for them, as it is for Wales.

“Wales didn’t come here to compete, they came here to win a series and they are now playing for survival. It’s going to be our challenge to face a fierce Wales team that is playing for survival.

“You want to see if our players are going to be able to perform under that pressure. We selected them because we think they can.”

Hope decision doesn’t backfire

South Africa will hope their decision to rotate will not backfire like it did to this weekend’s opponents Wales, who decided to alter their team for their final Six Nations clash with Italy and succumbed to an embarrassing defeat.

“We wanted to tick a couple of boxes. I don’t think it’s unique to us. People might say: ‘Why did you make so many changes?’ I think it’s common,” Nienaber added.

“If you look at France now, it’s not a ‘B’ side playing in Japan, there is some experience there and there are some players left behind. If you look at what Wales did in the last game against Italy, there were six changes in that game. They didn’t disrespect Italy at all.

“But obviously they were where they were. They could only finish third if they beat Italy but there is also an opportunity to give some guys a go. It’s not a unique situation.”

READ MORE: Pieter-Steph du Toit and Evan Roos start as Boks make mass changes


South Africa v Wales second Test preview

Planet Rugby previews the second Test between South Africa and Wales in Bloemfontein.