COVID-19 puts Boks' status under threat
INTERVIEW: The World Champion Springboks will be at a distinct disadvantage should they face New Zealand and Australia in a revamped Rugby Championship later this year.
South Africa Rugby Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux told a video-conference call earlier this week that they had allocated October and November as the timezones for the possibility of the return to Test rugby.
While there is still plenty of uncertainty as to what type of competitions the international window will include and the situation remains “very fluid”, Roux said the possibility of playing the Rugby Championship in a single venue ‘bubble’ is one of the options on the table.
However, the Boks will have lots of ground to make up when they take to the field again to defend their status as the world’s top-ranked team.
New Zealand’s franchises have been training for weeks and their inhouse competition, Super Rugby Aotearoa, gets underway this weekend.
Australian teams have also returned to the training field, with Super Rugby AU set to kick off on July 3.
South African teams are set to return to ‘limited’ training next week and a domestic competition is scheduled to get underway in August.
Injured Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff on Wednesday told a digital press conference that they are desperate to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“That [the delayed start] is why we want to get back on the field and start playing, even if it is behind closed doors,” Kitshoff told the media briefing.
(Continue reading below … )
He admitted match fitness and game readiness are going to play a massive role when the international season gets underway.
“If they [New Zealand and Australian teams] have already played six or seven games and we just started, it will have a massive influence on how prepared we are.”
He said it will be interesting to see where the teams are, how well they are conditioned and how quickly they can adapt to the whole post-COVID-19 situation.
“It is going to be very interesting to see how quickly can we get back to match fitness and perform like we did when the international season kicks off again,” he said of a Bok team that was on the crest of a wave after winning the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama, Japan, last year.
The Sharks, with World Cup winners Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am in sublime form, were top of the standings after seven rounds – when the competitions were suspended as a result of COVID-19.
The Stormers relied heavily on their World Cup-winning forwards – like Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Steph du Toit – that saw them win all their matches opening in the four matches – before a two-match wobble and some crippling injuries halted their progress.
Kitshoff also revealed that he is in the final weeks of his rehabilitation, after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle injury – suffer in the 14-24 loss in last round of Super Rugby against the Sharks on March 14.
“Rehabilitation has been going great and I am feeling good,” Kitshoff said, adding: “I have a lot of mobility back and I am starting to build on upper body strength.
“I’ve got a month or so left. I don’t have any issues, no pain and it’s just about trying to get the strength back and starting to make contact.”