- Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was careful not to criticise officiating ahead of Saturday’s Test against Argentina in Durban.
- Officiating again came under the spotlight in both Rugby Championship Tests that were won by the travelling teams.
- Nienaber hopes his charges keep their intensity up for the full 80 minutes on Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber steered clear of having a go at match officials ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider against Argentina at Kings Park.
The Boks’ 36-20 win against Argentina in Buenos Aires masked a woefully inept showing from New Zealand match official James Doleman.
He awarded 34 penalties in a game that was scrappy, while French match official Mathieu Raynal has earned opprobrium in Australia for the manner in which he ended the Bledisloe Cup game between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Melbourne.
Australia, who trailed 31-13 at some point, came back to lead the game 37-34, but flyhalf Bernard Foley inexplicably wasted time that saw a penalty overturned into a scrum from which the All Blacks scored to win 39-37.
The Boks were in hot water last year through their SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who dissected Nic Berry’s officiating in the first British & Irish Lions Test through a video that went viral.
That video saw Erasmus being punished by World Rugby, which explained why Nienaber erred on the side of safety.
“We trust the officiating and just like we are sifting in terms of being able to get answers, I’m sure World Rugby is doing the same with the officials,” Nienaber said.
“They’re giving them high-pressure games to see if they can handle that pressure. We must just trust that process.”
In amongst the changes Nienaber made to his match-day 23 for Saturday’s crucial Test, two of hem included the return of Bongi Mbonambi and Kurt-Lee Arendse.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse
They were both named on the bench, meaning that Malcolm Marx and Canan Moodie will continue in the starting berths.
Nienaber has been happy with Marx’s long efforts on the field, while Arendse’s return allowed for a return to the six-two bench-split.
“Malcolm has been excellent, he’s put in some big shifts, and he has been rightfully rewarded for them,” Nienaber said.
“He’s been awesome and he’s playing some excellent rugby at the moment.
“Kurt-Lee served his ban, otherwise, he would have been part of our group throughout the Rugby Championship,” Nienaber said.
“It’s nice for us to get him back. He is a quality player who can cover wing and fullback, so that versatility is important for us.”
Nienaber hopes his charges won’t be sucker punched by the kind of comeback Argentina staged in the second half of last week’s Test.
The Boks led 22-6 at half-time, but that buffer was whittled down to two points before the Boks found the second wind that allowed them to take the game away.
“They’re a passionate team and passionate people, so the reason why it got to 22-20 was that we made mistakes,” Nienaber said.
“They put us under pressure, and I take my hat off to the players for staying calm because you can be derailed by that kind of pressure.
“I wouldn’t call it a sleep session, but the guys did well to keep calm and make sure they scored the necessary tries to get the bonus point.”