Jacques Nienaber: Springboks selected the right players, not always the best ones

Jacques Nienaber: Springboks selected the right players, not always the best ones

Jacques Nienaber has revealed the Springboks' selection policy during his time in charge was based on picking the right players for the job, and not necessarily the best ones.

The former Bok coach explained that when players are featuring for different clubs around the world, it is important to get the culture right when they join back up with the Springboks.

Nienaber was on occasion criticised for omitting in-form individuals from his Springbok squads, but explained why they sometimes decided not to select the "better" player.

"The most important thing is to get the right people, not necessarily the best. When we do select the squad there's probably players that are better than the ones we select in our squad, who are performing better, but the key thing is that they must be the right people for the environment," he told The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast.

"That's why we sometimes get criticised selecting a squad; 'Yes, this guy is on form and he's far better than this guy.'

"You know what, the public are knowledgeable in South Africa, they are completely right, but sometimes that guy is not the right guy."

Nienaber also believes the decision to scrap their overseas policy ultimately proved beneficial to the national team.

South Africa were forced to alter their eligibility laws back in 2019 after their top players kept on departing for big pay packets in France, England and Japan. Previously, a player needed to have played at least 30 Tests for the Boks to continue to be eligible for selection if playing overseas.

The scrapping of that policy certainly posed challenges for the Springbok coaches, and also put pressure on the local franchises to retain their top players, but Nienaber believes that it aided the Boks' cause in the long run.

Since ditching the requirement just under five years ago, the Boks have gone on to win consecutive Rugby World Cups, while it has also enabled up-and-coming players, who ultimately replaced those experienced internationals, to progress quicker through the ranks.

"I don't think we have the monetary strength to pay our players the value that they are valued at. If you look at the squad that we took, it's about half and half," Nienaber said.

"About 15 or 16 players were plying their trade abroad and 15 or 16 plied their trade in South Africa.

"Those guys abroad, I don't know what their salaries are, but if they were in South Africa there's no way we would be able to pay them.

"I do think it's good for us they go abroad, they play there and then you can still select them if they're good enough.

"That really helped us win two World Cups. It works for us. If you think about the locks, Eben (Etzebeth) was with the Sharks but he was abroad in 2019, then you have Franco Mostert, who's abroad, you have RG (Snyman) and Jean Kleyn, who's abroad.

"If all of them stayed in South Africa, there wouldn't have been the (Ruan) Nortje's and the young guys coming through now because they would have been blocked by them. You get the new guys who are playing in the URC.

"It (playing abroad) broadens your guys' exposure to top rugby, so it's a good thing for us."

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