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Boks resting on a hope

Should we really expect the South African Super Rugby franchises to rest top Springboks as per SARU's request?

The agreement that a number of key players will be managed, with no player to play more than five consecutive matches, is not legally binding and has already been broken.

However, that should not really come as a surprise.

While the franchises may all be invested in player welfare and committed to contributing to the strength of the national team, all the honourable intentions in the world do not change the fact that they are professional franchises whose top priority is to do as well as possible in Super Rugby.

Boks resting on a hopeEach team would have done planning in the pre-season regarding when they would rest their top players, but as we have seen with the Sharks a tough draw and some patchy form meant that they simply could not afford to give the likes of Pat Lambie the day off against the Chiefs because it was his sixth consecutive game.

It is considerably easier for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee to rest Duane Vermeulen in their first tour game against the Highlanders with four wins out of five games and plenty of loose forward depth in his squad.

Plans could also be adjusted as soon as a player picks up a niggle, such as when Eben Etzebeth was an injury concern after the win against the Sharks – but then 'rested' for the clash with the Chiefs the following week.

Although bye weeks and play-offs are excluded it is not clear whether disciplinary suspensions count, which is something the Sharks will be asking with regards to their captain Bismarck du Plessis.

According to SARU the agreement means that 'players' game time will be handled on an individual Boks resting on a hopebasis depending on their work load in the last year as well as injuries', although they did not reveal which 'key players' are on the list.

Hopefully this means that contracted Springboks who are looking to play themselves into contention like Siya Kolisi and JJ Engelbrecht will not have any restrictions on how often they play.

The reality is that until central contracting is properly implemented in South African rugby, these sorts of agreements are the best that SARU can do in an effort to manage their top players.

It is not fair to expect the franchises to comply no matter what the circumstances as the fact remains that they pay the players' salaries and naturally want to play their best available team as often as possible.

While it is encouraging that SARU are concerned about the amount of rugby the Springboks are playing in a World Cup year, there is unfortunately too much resting on Super Rugby franchises under pressure to perform.

By Michael de Vries




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