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Boks’ coach palms off Hansen comments, defends style ahead of TRC

Steve Hansen's withering verdict on South Africa coach ahead of TRC

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South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has defended himself against critics of the Springboks’ style of rugby and is bracing for a “different challenge” in The Rugby Championship against New Zealand and Australia this month.

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Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was the latest prominent rugby voice to pour scorn on the Boks’ approach, saying the rugby they played in a series win over the Lions was “not a game that anybody wants to watch”.

Nienaber was diplomatic in his response, when asked about Hansen’s comments in a press call.

“To be honest, I didn’t see the comment,” Nienaber told media.

“With all the other things happening and we doing our reviews, I promise you I haven’t read anything.

“It’s been about determining what we want to achieve out of this week.”

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The Springboks will play Australia twice before two Tests against New Zealand.

“It’s always nice to test yourselves against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina,” Nienaber said.

“It’s phenomenal to play against them again. It was hard to miss out last year and it kind of left us wondering where we were in terms of our strength and ability.

“Pitching yourself against the SANZAAR teams allows you to measure yourself.”

South Africa top the standings having beaten Argentina twice in the past fortnight.

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Nienaber defended his side’s emphasis on forward domination and kicking for territory, which turned the Tests against the Lions into dour contests.

“Each team has its own skills set and its own unique athletic ability,” he said. “They all play towards the DNA of the team. That’s the beauty of rugby, there are different styles and ways to win Test matches.”

Nienaber said he expects the Wallabies and All Blacks to present a different challenge to that of the Lions.

“If you look at Australia and New Zealand, I think their style of play has a lot of similarities, a lot of movement, fast, quick, confident. They are quality sides with quality coaching,” he said.

The Springboks come into TRC having missed out on Super Rugby refining this year, but Nienaber said that wouldn’t be a factor.

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“We haven’t played against them, so you haven’t been exposed to the individual player.

“But Super Rugby is different to Test match rugby and we saw it.

“The last time we had Super Rugby and a Rugby Championship was 2019 and the Jaguares and the Crusaders played in the final.

“I don’t think one of our teams got to a semifinal, but we still went on to win a Rugby Championship.”

Nienaber said Boks prop Thomas du Toit returned to South Africa on Tuesday due to a family bereavement.

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