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Pictures: Boks in Test training mode

SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks made the big switch to Test mode on Wednesday, as they returned to the training field in Durban at the first of two preparation camps to kick into gear for the international season.

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This camp, which includes 15 players, will conclude on Friday, while the second preparation camp – which will feature players from the Stormers, who are preparing to face Munster in the United Rugby Championship Grand Final in Cape Town next weekend – will run from Monday, May 29 to Wednesday, May 31.

The group of players – which includes centre Lukhanyo Am, wing Makazole Mapimpi, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, utility forward Albertus Smith and fullback Willie le Roux – assembled in Durban on Tuesday and got straight into the swing of things on Wednesday with field training sessions, gym, and team meetings.

They will have a further two field training sessions on Thursday and one on Friday before returning home.

“It was fantastic to see how excited the players and members of team management were to return to the national set-up when we arrived in Durban,” said Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.

“This is a massive season for us and judging by the players’ enthusiasm to get back to the training field, we are excited about the journey ahead as we prepare for the Rugby Championship, our World Cup warm-up matches and the international showpiece in France.

“With these players having completed their franchise and club commitments, they can now turn their attention fully to the international season.”

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Nienaber added: “We have a small group of players at this camp, but this affords us the luxury of giving them special attention. As we said at our first training camp in February, every minute with the players is crucial for us to get our structures and systems in place to ensure that we peak at the right time during the World Cup.

“We’ll have a bigger group of players at the next camp and at our Rugby Championship training camp in June, but this week will assist us greatly in putting the groundwork in place.

“Having a few injured players here such as Siyamthanda [Kolisi] and Eben [Etzebeth] is also a bonus, as they’ll participate in all our team meetings, while our medical team have already started working with them.”

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The Springboks will begin their official preparations for the Rugby Championship at a training camp in Pretoria from Monday, June 12 to Friday, June 30.

They will kick off their 2023 international season against Australia at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, July 8.

The second Test of the condensed version of the Rugby Championship is against the All Blacks at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland (July 15), before the Boks will return to South Africa for the closing match of the competition against Argentina in Johannesburg (July 29).

The Springboks will play three World Cup warm-up matches: against Argentina in Buenos Aires (Saturday, August 5), Wales in Cardiff (Saturday, August 19) and New Zealand in London (Friday, August 25) respectively.

They will then make their way to France for the international extravaganza where they face Scotland in Marseille (Sunday, September 10), Romania in Bordeaux (Sunday, September 17), Ireland in Paris (Saturday, September 23) and Tonga in Marseille (Sunday, October 1) during the pool stages.

Players invited to Springbok camps (in alphabetical order): Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Verblitz), Thomas du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Siya Kolisi (all Sharks), Willie le Roux (Verblitz), Makazole Mapimpi, Bongi Mbonambi (both Sharks), Canan Moodie (Bulls), Retshegofaditswe Nche (Sharks), Albertus Smith (Blue Revs), Marco van Staden (Bulls), Grant Williams (Sharks).

Springbok 2023 fixtures:

Rugby Championship:

Saturday, July 8 – v Australia (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, July 15 – v New Zealand (Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland)
Saturday, July 29 – v Argentina (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

RWC warm-up fixtures:

Saturday, August 5 – Springboks v Argentina (Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, August 19 – v Wales (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)
Friday, August 25 – v New Zealand (Twickenham, London)

RWC fixtures:

Sunday, September 10 – Springboks v Scotland (Stade Marseille, Marseille)
Sunday, September 17 – Springboks v Romania (Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)
Saturday, September 23 – Springboks v Ireland (Stade de France, Paris)
Sunday, October 1 – Springboks v Tonga (Stade Marseille, Marseille)

Weekend of 14/15 October – Quarterfinals
Weekend of 21/22 October – Semifinals
Saturday, 28 October – Final

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