Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber admitted that a number of his South Africa ‘A’ side who were beaten by the Bulls on Saturday had missed an opportunity to stake a claim for involvement in the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
After a nominal second string side had beaten Warren Gatland’s tourists on Wednesday evening, a much changed outfit could not repeat the trick, falling instead to World Cup winning coach Jake White’s Pretoria-based outfit by a score of 17-14.
Nienaber, who had wanted another hit-out against the Lions before agreeing instead to face the Bulls, was at least happy to see a a South African side take the field for just a third time since winning the World Cup in Japan some 21 months ago.
“We wanted this match for a number of reasons, and I am happy that we managed to play today,” said Nienaber.
“We needed three games to get our ducks in a row before the Test series and we got that. The result was not what we had hoped for, but a number of questions were answered, especially with regards to the readiness of individual players and their readiness for selection.
“I wanted the guys to stake a claim for selection for next week’s Test and unfortunately, not everyone did that, but I am not going to discuss individuals – any comments on them will be emotional, because we are hurting.
“As a team, the performance was not there, and I blame myself for that as well. The lack of dominance from our pack was not what we had expected.
"With the late confirmation of the game, we also did not do any analysis on the Bulls and that showed, while I did expect a better set-piece platform.”
Since gathering ahead of the Test series last month, the World champions have been beset by Covid issues within their camp with training cancelled on multiple occasions and the loss of one of two warm-up Tests against Georgia.
Nienaber himself was forced to isolate from his squad while skipper Siya Kolisi remains in the protocols having tested positive on July 11.
While Nienaber has insisted every player will be given the opportunity to prove their readiness for the Lions, it’s clear that preparations have been far from ideal with in excess of 20 cases among the group.
“At the moment, we have two hookers out due to COVID protocols (Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni), and we needed to see what Joseph Dweba and Fez Mbatha can do,” Nienaber added. “And another couple of players got some valuable game time – Damian (De Allende) played 60 minutes, Kwagga (Smith) 80, and Damian Willemse had another run at centre.
“We will look at physical readiness and consider COVID protocols before we select our team and, in that regard, will be guided by our medical team.
“We will consider a number of factors before deciding to select players who have not played for the ‘Boks in the last couple of years, like how long we have worked with them, their training stats and factors other like that.
“Some players who have been in our mix will slot back in more easily than others. But we will have a proper medical feedback session tomorrow so will make a call who will be in line for Test selection.”