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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber wouldn’t be drawn on the tenuous position of his All Blacks opposite Ian Foster, but said the reality of the job is “you’re only two poor games away from being fired”.
That puts some perspective on Foster’s current position after losing his last two tests against Ireland and the series 2-1 in New Zealand on the back of two end-of-season losses in Europe late last year.
The All Blacks have the tough assignment of trying to rectify their slide in South Africa with back-to-back tests against the Springboks, the first one being played in Mbombela on Sunday (3.05am NZT).
Jeff Wilson urges All Blacks coach Ian Foster to be bold against South Africa as he fights for his job.
Nienaber, who inherited a world champion team from Rassie Erasmus after the triumph in Japan in 2019, was diplomatic as he faced the inevitable questions about Foster at a media conference.
“If I comment on what is happening in their camp and how I [Foster] feels, then that will be speculation,” Nienaber said.
“I don’t know what their deal is or how things operate between him and the CEO.
“As coaches and players, we know that when you represent your county there is always going to be pressure.
“Especially countries that have a rich rugby tradition like South Africa and New Zealand. There’s always going to be pressure.
“If you are a coach or a player you are two poor games from being dropped, and you are two poor games away from being fired. That is the reality and one lives with that.”
Nienaber also fended off questions around what would be going on in the All Blacks camp in the build-up to such an important test as this Rugby Championship opener, though he felt desperation would be a factor for both teams.
“We’ve got no control, and we can’t expand energy on thinking about how they are feeling, how desperate they’d be and what would they change,” Nienaber said.
“We’ve got no control over that, so the moment you think about those things, you’re wasting that energy.
“We can only control what we can control. We must make sure that they’re not more desperate than us on the day.
“That we can control, but we can’t control how they tackle the game, what they want to do with our maul, and our style of play.
“We need to stay in that reality. They’ll be desperate, and they’ll always be desperate. When two great rugby sides meet, there’s always desperation.”
Nienaber was prepared to talk about Ireland’s triumph in New Zealand which had lifted them to No 1 in the world rankings.
“Ireland are a quality side, and they pitch up with intensity. Their execution was quite good in the plan they had,” he said.
“We are not Ireland, we are not Leinster, and we don’t play like them. But the main thing that we took out of that is whatever plan you decided on for the All Blacks, you will have to bring intensity, and you will have to bring accuracy.”
He had noted Ireland’s successful mauling tactics against the All Blacks, though felt there was more to the Irish game than just that, with a diverse attack central to their success.
“You must have balance and Ireland had balance. They scored with maul tries, but they also had other means of attacking.
“The lineout maul will always be a big part of the game and it’s an exciting part of the game because there are a lot of technical and tactical decisions you have to make as a defensive side in terms of how you are going to control that.
“That might open up space somewhere else which you can attack if you want to.”