Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber backed his decision to start Joseph Dweba and Duane Vermeulen after their poor performances in the defeat to the All Blacks on Saturday.
Dweba and Vermeulen were substituted in the first half as the much-improved All Blacks powered to a bonus-point 35-23 victory over the world champions, the visitors having led 15-0 inside 20 minutes of the Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park.
“There is always a rugby reason why it is done, but it remains private,” Nienaber replied to a question post-match on the selection of hooker Dweba and No 8 Vermeulen to start.
“Every player in the group knew in advance why we chose that route and there is a very logical reason why we did that. Joseph got an opportunity and he will become a better player for that.
“We wanted a few players – Ox [Nche]Duane and Joseph – to get a run. They are players we will definitely use in the future. It was a nice opportunity for us to give them a little bit of a run. They will get better.”
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As it happened, Dweba was given a nightmare at the lineouts by wily All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, while Vermeulen generally looked off the pace.
There was plenty said in the build up of the decision to start Dweba ahead of Malcolm Marx when Bongi Mbonambi was forced to withdraw to a knee injury. Marx was Man of the Match after the Boks thumped the All Blacks in Nelspruit a week earlier, while Dweba was starting just his second match since mid-June.
The Bok coaches made a similarly big call to drop Jasper Wiese to the bench for Vermeulen’s first Test start of the year, despite the 36-year-old only recently recovering from knee surgery.
Nienaber was also grilled on sticking with a six-two split on the bench between forwards and backs – the Boks took another early injury blow at right wing with Jesse Kriel substituted in the first half due to a concussion.
As there was no out-and-out wing replacement, Willie le Roux came on at fullback and there was a backline reshuffle to accommodate him, Damian Willemse shifting to inside centre, Damian de Allende to outside and Lukhanyo Am to wing.
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“We take players off early if they have done their job, or if they no longer do it,” Nienaber said. “Because we have six forwards on the bench, we can make those early substitutes. As soon as a player does not give everything, he is replaced.
“For example, we replaced Jasper Wiese early in the third Test against Wales when we felt there was a slump in his contribution.
“In the 45 Tests I have been involved in, we used the Bomb Squad about 30 times. It mostly produced positives for us, such as winning the World Cup and Rugby Championship.”
Nienaber rued the poor start to the match, as well as a few missed try-scoring opportunities, but was pleased with the fight the Boks showed in the second half to come back and take the lead for the first time in the match.
“We didn’t control the game in the first half. Our execution was not as good as last week. We did well to fight back because it’s difficult to come back against the All Blacks with a 15-point deficit.
“There are still four games left [in the Rugby Championship]. We were also over the goal line three times, but couldn’t score. It happens sometimes.”
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Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images