The Springbok starting front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
- Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber had full conviction in the plan to replace the starting front row before half-time in the win over Scotland.
- Eyebrows were raised over the move initially as Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane had demolished the home side’s scrum.
- But Nienaber noted that such an effort saps energy and that they needed to be replaced at the time they were.
He was first to deny him and his coaching staff any credit, but Jacques Nienaber had full faith in the plan to replace the full Springbok starting front row before half-time in the victory over Scotland on Saturday.
The national head coach raised numerous eyebrows when the trio of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane were taken off as early as the 39th minute to make way for Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch.
It initially reminded of the decision to do the same thing during the first Test against the British & Irish Lions at half-time with the same group of players, a move that many believed backfired as the South Africans eventually lost that match.
In mitigation, the Boks’ planning was thwarted on that occasion by injury niggles sustained by Nche and co during the course of play.
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Nonetheless, on Saturday there were a few confused observers as the starters performed admirably, particularly in demolishing the Scottish scrum.
Heaping pressure on the decision too was the fact that Koch conceded 2 penalties within the first three minutes of his appearance, though he was blameless for the first – not rolling away – in what amounted to one of referee Angus Gardner’s more suspect calls.
In the end, the plan worked perfectly as Kitshoff and Marx dominated their collisions and eventually proved irrepressible at the breakdown.
Explaining his thinking afterwards, Nienaber reasonably argued that the energy-sapping nature of Nche and co’s scrum heroics isn’t always visible.
“The thing is that what they do in the scrum saps energy. I told Siya (Kolisi) afterwards that it’s like a snake bite,” said the Bok mentor.
“When it does bite, the venom won’t kill you immediately, only a bit later. It’s almost what Ox, Bongi and Trevor are doing for us currently.
“Sometimes – and I don’t want to sound clever here at all – we look at what we think the game is going to deliver. We get it wrong a lot of times.
“But I thought today we got it right by starting Trevor and the guys and we told them they had a specific role to play and that they didn’t need to save their energy.
“The message was: ‘We want to get out what we planned to get out of you as quickly as possible.’ The moment we saw they did that, we got the other guys on. It might be on 39 minutes, 50 or even 60.
“It depends on the moment they achieved what we wanted to get out of them.”
Nienaber was quick to point out that the current selection strategy is hardly one that’s cast in stone, something proven by the Lions series.
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“Sometimes, like in the Lions series, we started Kitsie and Malcolm and Trevor and Bongi would come off the bench to make a difference,” he said.
“That final scrum in the decisive third Test was crucial. The Lions were 5m away and they managed to win a penalty for us.”
For now, the Boks can rightly marvel at the power and skill of their starting front row dominating the scrum on this current end-of-year tour.
“I made a joke afterwards to (scrum coach) Daan (Human) that he better give his win bonus to the front row. We said from the outset that we’re fortunate to have two quality front rows in our team,” said Nienaber.
“They work in tandem. The guys that started laid the foundation and then the guys coming on with a role to fulfil and they built on it.”
Source by www.news24.com