‘No reason to change,’ says Nienaber about Bok team to face England

The same players who did duty against France in last weekend’s quarterfinal will feature in the semifinal this week against England.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber surprised many by naming an unchanged match 23 for their Rugby World Cup semifinal against England at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Saturday night.

It is just the second time in 64 Tests since SA Rugby director Rassie Erasmus and Nienaber took over the Bok coaching reigns in 2018 that they have named an unchanged match 23, the other being back in 2019.

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Nienaber explained that after the entire Bok team that edged France 29-28 in their quarterfinal clash over the past weekend was passed fit, they saw no need to break the continuity after their impressive performance.

“When we had our selection meeting, there were lots of discussions, but we felt everybody who played last Sunday had a proper performance, individually and as a team, so looking at that, we decided to go for continuity,” said Nienaber.

“There were no injuries, so from a medical point of view, there was no reason to change and from a performance point of view there wasn’t any reason to change.”

Rotational policy

Over the past few seasons the Boks have constantly rotated their match 23 from game to game, sometimes making a few changes and others making wholesale changes to the side.

That has continued over the World Cup so far with them making wholesale changes between each game so far, with Nienaber admitting that the physicality of the tournament played a big part in their rotation policy.

“The World Cup is a long tournament, which is why we went with a policy of rotating. The majority of the group who played in the quarterfinal also played against Ireland,” explained Nienaber.

“If you talk about physicality, our players told us the Tonga game was one of the most physical they had played in. So the one group got nicely exposed to it against Ireland, and the others got exposed to it against Tonga.

“Physicality is like any conditioning component, you have to get used to it. From that point of view, it set us up nicely for the France game. Obviously the French game was physical but our policy is if you can’t train on Monday, you can’t play.

“But everyone was good and ready to train, so we got a nice stimulus from a physical point of view against France. We will need that going into England, because if you look at their performances, they are improving every game, they are getting better.”

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