Stick counters criticism that Boks ‘insulted’ Wales: ‘Calling us a B-team is disrespectful’

Mzwandile Stick. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Mzwandile Stick. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

  • Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has fired a salvo at critics of South Africa’s “B-team” by arguing it “disrespects the Springbok emblem”.
  • Instead, he says a squad of 42 players have all earned the right to become international players and that Saturday’s combination against Wales has been assembled to win.
  • Weekend skipper Handre Pollard agrees that the labels given to the side have been unfair.

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has counterclaimed over the Springboks ‘disrespecting’ Wales with their selection strategy for the second Test in Bloemfontein, stating that calling them a B-team is ‘inconsiderate’.

The debate has raged all week over the symbolism behind the home side’s decision to make 19 changes to the side that won at Loftus last week, with no less than six players making their debuts at the Free State Stadium.

South Africa insists it’s been their plan all along, while Wales believes it’s rather insulting.

“An honest truth from my side is that [calling this team a B-side] is disrespecting of the Springbok emblem,” said Stick.

“We’ve got 42 players in this squad who’ve all earned their stripes. They’ve been playing brilliantly for their respective clubs.”

And, as he points out, when such a vast number of players are holding up their hands, a national setup can’t become an isolated one.

READ | Fiery Nyakane wants to keep Bloem a ‘graveyard’ for visitors: ‘We’ll be silent bullies’

“Somehow, we’re going to have to give these guys an opportunity,” said Stick.

“Now we’re in a good position to do that because we’re 1-0 up and can expose these players to a pressure game. For me, we don’t have a B-team. We’ve selected a strong team.

“It’s one that will be able to perform and have a chance to win the match. We’ve maintained a good balance.”

Asked whether some of the outside messages have merely fired up his charges further, Stick insisted that such influences shouldn’t really be a driver.

“The motivation comes within ourselves, irrespective of who we play or what the circumstances are,” he said.

“Like I said, we can’t underestimate Wales. They played until the 80th minute last week and will do so again this week.”

Similarly, Handre Pollard – who becomes the Springboks’ 64th Test captain – believes the claims made against the team is unjust.

READ | Welsh insulted, but Matfield excited by Nienaber’s 2nd Test selections: ‘They might surprise Wales’

“It’s definitely unfair,” he said.

“To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to it. It’s other people’s opinion and they are entitled to it. We don’t see it that way. We see it as a group of 43 Springboks who all have to do their part over the next few months.

“This weekend, it’s this group’s responsibility to do so.”

Teams:

South Africa

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse

Wales

15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Dan Biggar (captain), 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas

Substitutes: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Josh Adams

 

Given that the players knew in advance that their respective selections were in the pipeline, Pollard argued that cohesion might not be as big a stumbling block as many believe it might be.

“Last week Monday we already knew this would be the plan so this side trained together all of last week while the team for the first Test was preparing. This has now been our second week of training as a team and there has been a lot more cohesion,” he said.

“Of course, there will be disconnect sometimes with guys coming from all over the world, but we are prepared for that.”And we are going to be bold in the way we play. Yes, we will make mistakes but we have each other’s backs. We have to trust each other’s skillset.

“We have some unbelievably skilful guys and the game drivers such as myself have to give those guys opportunities to express themselves within our plan.”

Kick-off is at 17:05.