Springboks wary of 'phenomenal player' George North

Coach Jacques Nienaber has defended the Springboks after criticism about one-dimensional play. Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber says facing fit-again Wales back George North will be a challenge for his side as they plot ways to expand their own game with an eye on the defence of their Rugby World Cup title in France next year.

The Springboks face Wales in three home Tests on consecutive Saturdays from July 2, with North set to return after a year on the sidelines with knee ligament damage, which meant he missed the British & Irish Lions series loss in South Africa last year.

Nienaber believes the powerful wing will add an extra dimension to the Welsh side and his return is a big boost for their coach Wayne Pivac.

"George is a phenomenal player," Nienaber said. "He is physically strong and has such good attributes. He can play at wing or 13 (outside centre) and has massive experience.

"He has been playing international rugby from 18 years old and that does not happen to a lot of players. That statement alone speaks volumes about him and the quality of the man. It will be a nice challenge for us."

Nienaber says the Boks, who have been criticised for being too one-dimensional and relying on a dour territorial kicking game, are looking at ways to play differently this year when the situation allows.

"We need to develop our game. We did a proper review of our season (in 2021) and we weren't perfect at all. There is a lot of growth for us within our team and we are working on various areas to improve," he said.

But while he has selected eight new caps in a 43-man squad for the entire season, Neinaber said there will be no large-scale experimentation with team selection.

"The Springboks is a performance platform, not for development. You represent your country and a brand that has been there for more than 100 years," he added.

"If injuries don't go your way, only then there may be a chance to give some players exposure to international games."