SA Rugby Academy kicks off
NEWS: The SA Rugby Academy players were beaming with excitement and enthusiasm on Friday as the squad returned to the training field in Stellenbosch for the first time in more than a year.
A group of close to 30 players assembled at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Wednesday, while another eight squad members are set to join next week.
The Academy kicked off on Thursday with strength and fitness testing, and the players had their first light field training session on Friday, with the aim of phasing them back into full contact rugby over the course of the programme.
Four players – Western Province flyhalf Kade Wolhuter and the Bulls’ Jan-Hendrik Wessels (prop), Canan Moodie (centre) and Reinhardt Ludwig (lock) – are currently training with their respective senior provincial squads and will join the Academy at a later stage.
Corne Weilbach (WP prop) and Keanan Galant Bulls fullback), meanwhile, were forced to withdraw due to back and knee injuries respectively.
These developments resulted in four additional players being invited to train with the squad. They are Nolan Pienaar (Bulls prop), Lamla Nunu (WP prop), Corne Rahl (Sharks lock) and Jordan Hendrikse (Lions flyhalf).
“We are very excited,” said Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko.
“We followed all the COVID-19 protocols to make sure we are in line with the regulations, both from a government and SA Rugby perspective, and the attitude and excitement from the boys has been fantastic.
“I asked a few players when last they played, and one of them said March 2019 and another August 2019, so one can imagine their excitement to be back on the field and to be part of this system, so we are looking forward to it.”
Nhleko said the players would be phased into full contact training as the camp progresses in line with SA Rugby’s return-to-play guidelines for age-group rugby.
“We are lucky that most of the players have been with their unions doing non-contact training, but part of our process in the next three days and next week as well, is to make sure we focus on the non-contact part of things and to provide clarity on our detail, said Nhleko.
“We will also assess where they are from a physical conditioning point of view and determine their skill levels. We will then slowly reintegrate with some body work with assistance from the strength and conditioning staff, and perhaps some tackle bag work later on before we advance to full contact.”
The SA Rugby Academy programme – supported by corporates through the Rugby Educational Foundation (REF) and Academy sponsors, Remgro (through the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport) and SuperSport – was launched in 2017 and aims to balance formal education with high performance training and player welfare. The 2021 programme will run until June 30.
Updated SA Rugby Academy squad:
Props: Blaine Golden (Sharks), Okuhle Siyeni (Lions), Tielman Nieuwoudt (Bulls), Lamla Nunu (Western Province), Nolan Pienaar (Bulls), Sibusiso Shongwe (Lions), Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Bulls).
Hookers: Jacques Goosen (Sharks), Andre-Hugo Venter (Western Province), Lukhanyo Vokozela (Western Province).
Locks: Connor Evans, Dylan de Leeuw (both Western Province), Reinhardt Ludwig (Bulls), Simon Miller (Western Province), Corne Rahl (Sharks).
Loose forwards: George Cronje (Cheetahs), Wandile Hlophe (Lions), Keketso Morabe (Western Province), Rynard Mouton (Bulls), Siyemukela Ndlovu (Lions), Siyambuka Ningiza (Sharks), Jarrod Taylor (Western Province), Sisonke Vumazonke (Lions).
Scrumhalves: Bobby Alexander (Western Province), Bradley Davids (Sharks), Nico Steyn (Lions).
Flyhalves: Jordan Hendrikse (Lions), Sacha Mngomezulu (Western Province), Brandon Wilkie (Sharks), Kade Wolhuter (Western Province).
Centres: Carlton Bannies (Bulls), Tyler Bocks (Lions), Mnqobi Mkhize (Sharks), Canan Moodie (Bulls), Zeilinga Strydom, Henco van Wyk (both Lions).
Outside backs: Dalvon Blood (SA Rugby contracted/Western Province), Geraldo Flusk (Bulls), Curwin Gertse (Sharks), Matthew Jacobs (Sharks), Duran Koevort (Western Province), Mtungwa Mapantsela (Sharks), Keanan Wentzel (Bulls).