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RUGBY WORLD CUP

Nienaber and Kolisi believe the Boks ‘have to get better’ as RWC 2023 looms

Nienaber and Kolisi believe the Boks ‘have to get better’ as RWC 2023 looms
Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi of South Africa lift the Prince William Trophy with teammates during the Summer International match between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium on 19 August 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Alex Davidson / Getty Images)

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi enjoyed the win over Wales but know they have to sharpen up as Rugby World Cup 2023 comes into keen focus.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is not blinkered and not in denial.

Despite the excellent eight-try rout in Cardiff where the Boks thrashed Wales 52-16, there were still a few poor moments. And it’s those that will have the coach’s attention in the coming weeks as the All Blacks loom at Twickenham on Friday, 25 August. 

“We have to get better going into France,” Nienaber said. “We’re on the side of the draw that’s knockout from game one and just to get out of our pool will be a challenge. 

“Everyone would know that it’s our aim to go back-to-back and retain the World Cup and we can’t hide from it. We want to be the second team to successfully defend it and the bonus would be that we’d be the first team to win four World Cups.

“It’s a massive thing that we’re playing for, and you can talk around it but that’s our goal – and to achieve it we’ll have to get better. 

He knows that flyhalf Manie Libbok is struggling from the tee – after landing five out of nine during South Africa’s mauling of Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday. 

Manie Libbok of South Africa is tackled by Elliot Dee of Wales during the Summer International match between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium on 19 August 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Alex Davidson / Getty Images)

Nienaber is also not prone to panic and knee-jerk reactions. Libbok is the only fit flyhalf in the squad. For now, he remains the only option – and a very good one at that. 

Handré Pollard, who partook in the pre-match warm-ups and drills without any obvious signs of discomfort after a lengthy calf muscle injury lay-off, could come into the 33-man squad if someone is injured. 

But that’s conjecture at this point because as it stands Libbok is the man Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus have backed. And they will continue to do so.

Libbok’s contribution to the comfortable win over Wales – outside of goalkicking – was excellent. Some commanding general play, kicking accurately with both feet, lovely ghosting runs and sublime passing showed why he is easy to love. That love is tested when he kicks for goal at the moment though. 

Everyone, including the Bok coaching staff, knows that to win a World Cup, he will have to be more ruthless in front of the posts. And they will continue to work to make Libbok better. 

Jacques Nienaber, head coach of South Africa, looks on ahead of the Summer International match between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium on 19 August 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Kolisi happy

An ecstatic and relieved skipper Siya Kolisi purred after an excellent 40-minute cameo. His shift included some strong runs, big tackles and a deft shimmy and offload for Malcolm Marx to score the opening try of the match in the third minute. 

It was a quite staggering return from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament just four months ago. 

“It felt amazing,” Kolisi said. “I didn’t have any fear going into the game. 

“I was very happy to be on the field and my mind was on what I needed to do on the field, not anything else. There are a lot of things I can definitely improve on, but I’m very happy that I played and I’m also happy for the team.

“I think our training sessions prepared me very well. I remember doing a contact session and I asked the guy to hit me a little bit softer. Pieter-Steph (du Toit) walked up to me and told me to trust my knee and that I will be fine. 

“You can’t buy those kinds of things, especially from somebody who has been through that.”

Cai Evans of Wales is tackled by Siya Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa during the Summer International match between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium on 19 August 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Nienaber was also full of praise for the skipper. 

“I am very happy for him. He has put lots of hard work in behind the scenes and it was great to see those sacrifices pay off,” the coach said.

“The plan with Siya was to leave him as long as he is productive on the field. But we got capped by the medical team on 40 minutes. We were never going to give him more than 40 minutes.

“We had a conversation with him and said, ‘Listen, go out as hard as you can with as much intensity as you can’. The moment we could see that he isn’t productive anymore – which didn’t happen – or he felt he wasn’t being productive, then we would pull him. 

“We said from the beginning, if everything goes according to plan and you are productive and feel good, then we will give you 40 minutes.”

Like Nienaber, Kolisi believes there is still a lot of room for improvement with the Boks’ RWC 2023 opener against Scotland set for 10 September in Marseille. 

“As a team we did well; I thought our discipline could be a lot better especially in the first half,” Kolisi said. “But we wanted to stay disciplined in the system and I think we did that well. But next week is a different challenge and we’re going to have to get up again.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Boks first match in France at RWC 2023 is indeed at Marseille, but it is against Scotland….. who will pose several difficult questions!

  • Etienne Marais says:

    The game was great against Wales – but Manie Libbok seemed to be lacking in confidence where kicking was concerned – he uses a different style of kicking for easy kicks (at poles) – kicking the ball much flatter. It’s basic physics that if you kick the ball at a much higher arc than needed, the chance of it being straight are lower. Hope he has proper kicking coaching – bccause judging on the last few games it does not seem so.

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    They need to work on penalties and tackles. Too many missed tackles 26/107 will be punished by the ABs.

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