Jacques Nienaber. (Photo Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images)
- Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber revealed he was “literally stunned” by the refuted allegations of recreational drug use within the team.
- Nienaber questioned the timing of an article on the saga, believing it was “strategic”.
- Both Nienaber and skipper Siya Kolisi stated that no player has been informed of having tested positive for any banned substances.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber expressed his bemusement and dismay at the “strategic timing” of allegations of recreational drug use and accompanying positive tests in the final hours of his charges’ build-up to Saturday night’s 36-20 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.
SA Rugby were required to distribute a strongly-worded statement refuting the claims merely three hours before kick-off after specialist site Sarugbymag published that it had been told the local governing body was seeking legal recourse against a report that was going to be published by a Sunday paper detailing the alleged indiscretions.
In the aftermath of a gutsy victory, Nienaber calmly but firmly weighed in on the issue, reiterating a previous line that all the team could do was to focus on the things they could control.
“From my side it was quite disturbing, especially the timing of it – five hours before a Test match which amounts to a semi-final,” he said.
“I’m literally stunned that allegations of that nature can be made about this team. I do believe the timing was strategically planned, whoever did so.
“It makes you wonder about [SA Rugby’s Springbok payoff line] #strongertogether, but it is what it is. There was nothing we could do about it. It’s a narrative that’s not driven by us, all we can control is playing good rugby.”
The Bok mentor also pointed out that testing regimes for all international teams are so tight that players simply can’t take the chance of taking illegal substances.
“We’re tested, like any other team, regularly. Sometimes it’s even three times a week in South Africa. There hasn’t been one positive test since we’ve been together this whole year,” he said.
“[The saga] has been very disappointing.”
For skipper Siya Kolisi and his teammates, the equation was simple when it came to being in the right frame of mind for the match.
“We pulled together, we want to win the Championship and had to show Argentina the respect they deserved. They’re a great team, an experienced one,” said the flanker.
“We told ourselves as a group that we had to pitch up for the game and everything else would be looked after. At the end of the day, the people that support us were behind us and all they want to see is results.
“We just wanted make people proud at home. I don’t know of any player that has been told he tested positive.”
‘It’s been a tough week’
Yet, as one would expect, Kolisi admitted that the week of preparation was a challenging one, especially after much of it was dominated by the continued rumblings and intrigue over how the Elton Jantjies issue has been dealt with.
“It’s been a tough week. We players obviously read a bit what everyone writes and it’s hard. Some players can take it, others find it harder,” he said.
“It’s just to stick together and tell ourselves that our supporters really just want to see results, what we do on the field. We want to win this title, no matter what’s going on around us. We did that.
“It’s a special group of players this. If we are the guys that Jacques and Rassie believe are still the best to take this team forward, we’ll continue to push each other to new limits.”