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SA are gearing up for a different type of challenge when they host below-par New Zealand in their opening game of the Rugby Championship in Mbombela (Nelspruit) on August 6, but are wary of the threat of the wounded tourists.
The Springboks overcame Wales 2-1 in a home Test series earlier this month, which was characterised by a drive for set-piece dominance from both sides and a heavy reliance on a territorial kicking game.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber is expecting a less “in your face” style from New Zealand, who he believes will try to stretch his team’s defence, something Wales seldom attempted in the three Tests, despite some success in doing so.
“If you look at the athletes and the skill set New Zealand have, it’s going to be a game built around continuity and moving the ball around,” Nienaber said on Wednesday. “Having said that, they don’t shy away from set-piece battles, but it will likely be more continuity [with ball in hand] than we saw in the Wales series.”
Nienaber added he does not believe the exit of New Zealand assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar in the wake of the 2-1 home series loss to Ireland will have too much bearing on the outcome next week.
“I don’t think it makes too much difference, we had a similar situation before the  Rugby World Cup. We lost Swys [de Bruin] and brought in Felix Jones with a month to go,” he said.
The world champions laboured to the victory over Wales, though they fielded two totally different teams in the series as Nienaber sought to give as many players as possible a chance. He conceded they must move up a level in performance.
“Our goal in the Rugby Championship is to improve, and the main thing for us is to fix things in our game,” Nienaber said. “We were not perfect against Wales by any stretch of the imagination, but we had a nice review afterwards and a reality check of where we are at.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.