Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has opted for stability on the field, selecting the same starting line-up that featured against Australia 10 days ago for Saturday’s crunch game against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

It’s a good sign of consistency in what has been an inconsistent campaign so far. But it also comes at a time when there are signs of the positive team culture that has been one of the hallmarks of this Boca side on the creaking.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjis and nutritionist Zeenat Simji were sent home from Argentina on Sunday after the encounter between the pair was revealed. Although their personal lives and the fallout from their alleged relationship are not really anyone’s business, the details in story publ Report details of unpaid guest house bills and late-night disturbances for other residents. It takes him into another realm.

The issues have tarnished the Springboks’ reputation since the incidents allegedly took place during Test week between two members of the Bok squad. The very fact that they were sent home from the tour is a tacit admission that they broke team protocol.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjis and nutritionist Zeenat Simji were sent home from Argentina on Sunday after the encounter between the pair was revealed. (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

The fact that the Boks tried to deny a breach of protocol is already completely ridiculous. And then they compounded the negative publicity by gagging Ninaber at a media conference, which doesn’t look good. Where is the honesty and transparency that this current Boca structure has peddled over the years?

A simple question to Ninaber about whether the revelations revealed in the story and the implications surrounding it distracted the team was not allowed. “We only want to talk about rugby,” was the message.

It’s a shame that the Boks seem to be reverting to a camp mentality again. Obviously, Ninaber can’t comment on the intimate, personal relationship between two team members, but he can speak in general terms about team dynamics and team culture.

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The alleged Jantjies/Simjee incident is unfortunate in the context of the team, but certainly not a crime. And this is almost certainly not the first time a Bok player has misbehaved on tour. But rarely has a player, and in this case a member of management, been recalled from a tour.

The fly-half Bock is married with three children and will have to deal with the consequences of his family life in private. So Simji will have to deal with any personal issues privately.

But the Bok team is also a victim in this story and the way they have chosen to deal with it is to pretend that everything is business as usual. And it is not so. Unless this incident is seen as acceptable in Bok’s setup, and if it is, it’s a red flag.


Stepping onto firmer ground, Nienaber named the same starting XV that beat Australia 24-8 in Sydney 10 days ago in this must-win match. The results of the Rugby Championship are still unknown, with all four teams capable of winning it with two rounds to go.

“Springbok” coach Jacques Ninaber. (Photo: Charles Lombard / Gallo Images)

On the bench, however, Ninaber opted for a rotation, bringing in Elrig Louw on the wing for Duane Vermeulen, recalling Faf de Klerk as scrum-half, with Kobus Reinach out and center Andre Esterhuizen in place of Warwick Gelant.

Ninaber eventually went a bit off script when talking about the pressure the Boks put on themselves to win.

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“I said before that any national team feels a lot of pressure. There are two types. One is external pressure. Can we control it? No. There is an internal pressure where we hold each other to certain standards. It’s about expectations. This is the kind of pressure we can control,” he said.

“Internal pressure is what we focus on. External pressure, whether it’s injury or even speculation, is something we have to shrug off because we can’t control it. It is useless to waste energy on this. We can’t change that.”

Eben Etzebet and Wallabies Allan Alaalatoa in action at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on September 3, 2022. (Photo: Mark Metcalf/Getty Images)

Speaking of pressure, the coach said he was expecting a tough encounter against a team that has already beaten the Wallabies and All Blacks this season.

“It’s a game they (Cougars) will definitely be targeting. When we look at their team selection, we are under no illusions that we will face a passionate, physical Argentina team that knocked out Australia and New Zealand,” Ninaber said.

“They will be targeting us and that is why we treat it as a semi-final because it will be a good test for the players to handle a pressure situation in a pressure game; the game will be heated and the crowd will be hostile. This will be the perfect game to measure players and see if they can handle the enemy situation.

“Argentina is a passionate country, it is a proud team that has many difficulties without a domestic league and has challenged many players abroad. They are a strong team who are hard to break down and they are eager to perform in front of their home fans.

“They are formidable. We saw in Christchurch how well they played and how well they were coached. They also have a lot of experience.”

It could have been better

After a season that produced four wins and three losses, Ninaber admitted that the team is not yet what it wants to be. But he added the caveat that they have grown their long-term prospects by mixing the side up in the early stages of the season.

Jacques Ninaber says Box probably doesn’t where they need to be in terms of winning the World Cup. (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

This is the first consistent beginning of the XV campaign.

For the impressive Damian Willemse, it means another hand and a half start. He was excellent against Australia in Sydney and his versatility and ability to switch to a pivot role in light of Yanties’ omission and Handre Pollard’s injury exclusion is vital.

“Sometimes you deal with things like injuries, like losing Handre Pollard or what happened at right wing,” Ninaber said. “But it also allows you to test your depth. You gain some experience in your team.

“Are we where we need to be in terms of winning the World Cup? Probably not, but there are several reasons why.

“We did not put a lot of emphasis on continuity in the election. We’ve been thinking a bit more broadly – like giving Ellra (Love) an opportunity in the big game, and last time out to Cannon (Moody) in Australia, where he took advantage of that opportunity. Jaden (Hendrix) starts there and while we know consistency in selection leads to consistency in performance, we also need other answers.” DM

The Springbok team.

15 Willy le Roux, 14 Kanan Moody, 13 Jesse Creel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jayden Hendrickse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Sia Collisi (capt), 5 Lud de Jaeger, 4 Eben Etzebet, 3 Frans Mahlerb, 2 Malcolm Marks, 1 Stephen Kitzgoff

Subs: 16 Deon Fourier, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Elrig Luw, 20 Kwago Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Frans Stein.


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