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Scotland World Cup opener is a ‘quarter-final for Boks’ — Nienaber

The Bok boss knows that they face a tough task in their first game against an in-form Scotland who have risen to fifth in the rankings.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has admitted that a number of tough calls had to be made when selecting the match-23 for their opening World Cup match against Scotland in Marseille on Sunday.

The Boks, as per usual over the past few seasons, named their team a couple of days earlier than most do, on Wednesday night, while Scotland will name their side on Friday.

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A few surprise picks were made in the starting XV, with Damian Willemse getting the nod at fullback ahead of Willie le Roux, while Jasper Wiese was backed at eighthman ahead of in-form stalwart Duane Vermeulen.

“It stops speculation. The players know anyway, so it will probably come out in some sort of way. To be transparent it has always been the way. By getting it (the announcement) out of the way we can just focus on preparing for Scotland,” explained Nienaber on why the Boks named their team earlier than others this week.

“It (selection) was very tough. When we were in Corsica we had a team selection every morning and it chopped and changed. There’s good competition across the board. We are in a fortunate position in terms of the squad we’ve developed over the last couple of years.

“I don’t think an eyebrow would have been raised if Duane was starting and Jasper was on the bench and that was probably what we were working towards. That’s good in terms of creating a squad, and in terms of what we will need for Scotland, that’s the best way to utilise them.”

Tough task

Nienaber knows that they face a tough task in their first game against an in-form Scotland who have risen to fifth in the world rugby rankings, and that they will have to be at their best on the day.

The Boks will also be facing a number of familiar faces on the playing field and in the coaches box, with a few South Africans involved in the Scottish set-up.

“In general they’re a quality rugby side. They deserve being ranked fifth in the world. Their performances over the last year, year and a half have been consistent against big teams. It will be a proper Test match. We’re playing quarter-final knockout rugby from day one,” said Nienaber.

“I’ve worked closely with Pieter de Villiers (scrum coach), I’ve coached Duhan (van der Merwe, wing) and Pierre Schoeman (prop) at South African schools level. They know us and we know them, and we’ll have to have a close eye on them.”

Points needed

Nienaber also believes that an important aspect in this year’s World Cup is that teams will need to score quite a few points, whereas in previous editions teams could force wins with a strong defence.

“I think all the teams have improved since 2019 but World Cups are a bit different. You must have the ability to score points whereas in 2019 you could grind it out with a good defence, a good kicking game and a solid set-piece,” explained Nienaber.

“We had to adapt. I don’t think we’re the finished product yet, but we are working towards that.”

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