Six-week block that holds key for Boks
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks’ participation in the proposed New Zealand-based rugby championship is not guaranteed.
South African Rugby Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux first alluded to it in his media briefing last week and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber reiterated it at the weekend.
Roux told a virtual media briefing that the most likely option for the Springboks this year is a Rugby Championships based in New Zealand.
World Rugby later revealed that the Rugby Championship will be staged over a reduced six-week period between November 7 and December 12.
However, several hurdles remain to ensure the tournament gets off the ground – most notably the quarantine requirements for people (read teams) arriving in New Zealand.
“Special measures will be implemented to deal with any government-required quarantine period prior to the start of the competition,” World Rugby said.
Roux also alluded to the fact that they are working hard to overcome any issues around Regulation 9 – the release of players from their Northern Hemisphere clubs for international matches.
However, the biggest obstacle is the fact that New Zealand and Australia will have a massive jump-start on South Africa and Argentina.
The Kiwis have been active for at least two months, with Super Rugby Aotearoa heading into week eight.
Australia, through Super Rugby AU, has had a month of action.
In stark contrast, Roux revealed last week that South Africa plans an eight-team Currie Cup competition that will only get underway in the last week of August or first week of September – all depending on government approval.
And this could result in a badly undercooked Bok team having to defend its No.1 ranking against psyched up All Black and Wallaby teams with plenty of match-practice in physically demanding competitions.
It is a fact that has not escaped new Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, who admitted that unless certain conditions are met, the Boks will not risk life and limb in Aotearoa.
Nienaber – like Roux said last week – told weekend media that Bok participation depends on if the domestic competition gets underway.
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“We have a responsibility to ensure that the players have received sufficient conditioning so that they can play rugby,” Nienaber told the Afrikaans Sunday Rapport newspaper.
The Springbok coach feels he would need a 45-man squad in New Zealand to cover for any injuries – given the quarantine requirements.
More importantly, to ensure the Boks are up for the challenge the players would need to have at least six games of Currie Cup action under the belt.
“If we can’t play six games, then I don’t think we will go,” Nienaber told Rapport.
“The player well-being risk would just be too great.”
The Bok coach said the size of the squad is about practical considerations.
“If you pick three hookers and you lose one, a new one has to fly from South Africa. He will then have to be quarantined for two weeks. He will therefore only be able to play in his fourth week.
“We will go to New Zealand with at least four hookers, four tighthead props and four loosehead props.”
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