Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber remains adamant that it was the right decision for the national team not to take part in this year’s Rugby Championship.
The event, which was held in Australia, was renamed Tri Nations for this year as only the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina took part.
At the time of the Springboks’ withdrawal in mid-October, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the decision was made because they were “unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges”.
However, some pundits and fans have criticised South Africa’s decision to opt out, especially after Argentina’s solid performance – Los Pumas stunned the All Blacks 25-15 in their opening game and drew twice with the host nation to claim second spot on the log.
Nienaber, though, told Rapport newspaper he was happy and content with the decision to pull out.
“Every country had its own challenges during the lockdown. Our lockdown was radical and had a big impact on the players,” the Bok mentor said.
Nienaber added that the decision did not just rest with himself, Roux and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
“We consulted with specialists to advise us on the aspects that affected the players. It was about what was in the best interests of the players and the team.”
Nienaber believes Argentina’s initial success in the competition cannot be used as a barometer for criticising South Africa’s absence. Los Pumas were also affected by injuries later in the event and lost 38-0 in their second match against the All Blacks.
“When our players started training after the lockdown, the reports showed how far they were behind with their conditioning. We were also the last rugby country able to return to the training field, which was a big disadvantage. For us it was a case of putting player welfare first.
“Argentina doesn’t have a Currie Cup, so if they couldn’t play in the Rugby Championship they wouldn’t have had anything to offer. Their problem was different to ours, so it’s unfair to compare it with us.”
Despite not playing any Test rugby since beating England in the World Cup final in November last year, the Boks finished the year atop the World Rugby rankings.
World Rugby rankings (top 10):
1. South Africa – 94.20
2. England – 89.49
3. New Zealand – 88.95
4. France – 85.30
5. Ireland – 84.65
6. Australia – 83.08
7. Scotland – 80.82
8. Argentina – 80.31
9. Wales – 79.36
10. Japan – 79.29
– Compiled by Sport24 staff