All the hurdles 'desperate' Boks must overcome
INTERVIEW: Listen as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus explain the hurdles the national team must overcome to participate in the Rugby Championships.
It seems like ‘mission impossible’, but Nienaber and Erasmus are “desperate” to find a way for the Boks to feature in this year’s Rugby Championship in Australia.
Erasmus admitted that it is still doubtful if South Africa will head Down Under, but they are “working really hard” to see how they can make it work.
“We desperately want to play,” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing on Monday, adding: “It would be terrible to go through a whole year not to playing Test matches.”
However, they have to make a call soon – with October 10 set down as the deadline.
Nienaber said there is no clearance yet from the government on international sporting participation.
“That is out of our hands and once we get that clearance we will look at other factors,” the Bok coach said.
Erasmus revealed that the big problem of player release is mostly with the English clubs, while French and Japanese clubs looks set to release most of their SA players.
“We will to take a massive squad [to Australia], as we will be there for eight weeks,” he said, adding that they start with a two-week quarantine.
He explained that because of the difficulty of flying in replacements and the obvious isolation issues around that, they have to take four players in certain key positions – like loosehead prop, tighthead prop, hooker, etc.
“If the overseas-based players only arrive two weeks after us, then – when we start playing against Argentina [on November 7] – they will still be in quarantine.
“What is even worse is that they will be without any high-performance support – like doctors, physios, [they] can’t get into a swimming pool.
“We have about 14 or 15 players [in the Premiership] that we are monitoring. Not all of them will make it.
“There are a lot of logistical issues, apart from the fact that your best team won’t be there for the first two weeks.
“We are working really hard to see how we can make this work and [through SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux] we are working really hard on financial models.”
Erasmus pointed out that because South Africa was in a really hard lockdown, science-based, they have to get five to six games into the players before it is safe for them.
There is the issue of player welfare.
“Going away for so long, the players would be away from home for nine out of 10 weeks.
“We are investigating how we can make the Rugby Championship happen.”
Erasmus said they need players with 400 to 500 minutes of contact rugby under their belts for the Boks to be competitive.
“The players who will get closest to that are the players based abroad,”he said, adding: The player with the highest number of minutes at the moment is just over 400 minutes.
“Internally [in SA] we are trying to work out how we will get the boys to that stage.
“We want to go, we just don’t know at this stage how we are going to make it possible to go.”
Erasmus said that after the opening round of matches, in the new domestic competition, on October 10, 46 players will have to go into a camp for training and isolation before they get onto the plane.
The Boks must arrive in Australia by October 18 and two weeks later they play their first match against Argentina.
New Zealand and Australia would already be playing against each other in the Bledisloe Cup by the time the Boks arrive for their two-week quarantine.
Nienaber said getting permission from the government is a call that is out of their hands.
“[Then there is] the isolation period when we arrive in Australia,” the coach said.
“Isolation in Australia is not as strict as in New Zealand.”
However, there are other issues – simple things like what recovery modalities they are allowed.
Then there is the issue of the availability of overseas-based players.
World Rugby has declared that Regulation Nine, for the release of players for internationals, will apply to the Rugby Championship.
However, the English clubs are not keen to release their players until after the Premiership Final on October 24.
Only after that can those players join the squad in Australia and then still have to go into a two-week isolation/quarantine period.
“That would be problematic for us, getting those players later.”