Coach Jacques Nienaber has admitted his unorthodox use of substitutes made the difference between victory and defeat in the Springboks’ thrilling Test against the All Blacks in Gold Coast on Saturday.
South Africa produced an industrious performance to break their three-match losing streak with an against-the-odds 31-29 win over their arch-rivals.
Replacements Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn as well as front rowers Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch were all influential from the moment they were introduced off the bench.
Nienaber replaced the whole front row after 38 minutes and started the second half with Steyn at fullback, while Jantjies was also given a longer run at flyhalf than usual.
And it worked a charm as he slotted a well-struck drop goal to put the Boks ahead and then later knocked over the match-winning penalty at the death.
“This time I decided to use them much earlier and I think we were doing much better today in that regard.
“As I mentioned last week, I wanted to use Elton, but then had the injury to Marco van Staden which prevented that as we might have finished the game with 14 players [if Van Staden’s injury worsened],” explained Nienaber. “Elton was awesome when he came on.”
On his part, Steyn swung the momentum of the game in the Boks’ favour with his hefty boot when he came on for Willie le Roux at the start of the second half.
Le Roux had an indifferent performance in the first 40 minutes, and especially struggled under the high ball, while his handling was also poor.
“Frans was brilliant,’ Nienaber exclaimed. “Willie had a few good touches in the game and there was some good play from him, but I wanted to bring in Frans for the 50/22 kicks. He trained well with us and did very well when called upon.”
Nienaber also explained why he replaced the front row before the half-time whistle, a move which was questioned by many viewers.
“We see them as a combination and the minutes played will never be the same. The first group has to do a specific job and once they’ve done that then the next group can come one,” the coach explained.
“Sometimes, it’s gonna be at 35 minutes, sometimes it’s gonna be at 50 minutes and sometimes it’s gonna be at 60 minutes. The moment we feel they’ve done their part, we’ll bring the other guys on.
“Today I felt they emptied their tanks with what they were trying to do. They did their job and that’s why that front-row substitution happened.
“Today they [the starting front row] emptied their tanks after 38 minutes and I replaced them when they did their job. After last week, I decided we should make use of our subs. We must never keep a substitution on the bench, they are there to fulfil a role.
“We’ve got quality players on the bench that can really influence the game, so last week we probably could’ve made our subs earlier, but they were excellent tonight when they came on.”
Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images
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