Fans question Nienaber’s squad

Last week, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber announced South Africa’s 33-man squad to travel to France for this year’s Rugby World Cup.

However, Nienaber’s selection has been marred by injuries and odd selections that have left not only South African fans, but also Namibian rugby fans, perplexed.

The Boks technical team have been taunting the rugby world for four years following their 2019 World Cup victory, and for the first time since the final against England, their confidence appears to be shaken with fans questioning the exclusion of certain players and how the team will fare with their absence.

Out of the team

The likes of Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Lood de Jager, all starters in the 2019 World Cup final, are out of the squad due to injury issues. Pollard has not featured for the Boks since August 2022 due to a string of injuries and has recently also suffered a calf problem.

Am twisted his knee against Argentina recently when South Africa beat Buenos Aires.

De Jager has also spent a lot of time on the sidelines over the last year. However, despite not featuring for South Africa in the Rugby Championship, captain Siya Kolisi has been named in the squad as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Kolisi is set to make an appearance on Saturday when the team lines up against Wales in their second Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.

Fans comment

Avid rugby fan Shawn Geingob reckons Nienaber didn’t get his squad right this time around. "Maybe he's going for a change in tactics and experimenting with the team, but leaving Pollard, Am and De Jager out of the squad was a mistake. Am played against the Pumas. Maybe he lacks match fitness, but he could have gotten that in the friendly matches.

"The way the Boks play, those guys which were left out would have been crucial in making it work."

Geingob added that there is individual brilliance in the team, "but as a team, I don't see them reaching the semi-finals."

He added that the front pack will do the heavy lifting. "It seems the reliability lies there."

In addition, he stated that Kolisi’s selection was not bad. "They need him upfront to bring in the discipline element and to create overlapping runs. Also, not selecting the only black captain who won you the previous World Cup would be outrageous. The fans would have gone insane," he explained.

Tough decision

On the other hand, local sports reporter Andrew Poolman is of the opinion that the depth of the Springboks squad is reflected in the quality of the top players that did not make the cut.

"Especially among the forwards, South Africa has players as backup that would be starters for many other nations, such as Thomas ‘The Tank’ du Toit, Evan Roos and Jean-Luc du Preez.

"That is unfortunately the nature of team selection for big events, especially the World Cup – there will also be tough calls and controversial omissions.

"As far as big-match experience is concerned, very few nations can match the South Africans. Of course, their path to the final will not be simple. Advancing from their pool will provide a real test, and after that, an intense quarter-final against either New Zealand or France awaits."

On the other hand, the squad list for the Namibian rugby team for the World Cup is eagerly awaited by fans, with those in the know stating that names should be revealed this week. The team returned from their South American tour on Monday.