Bok coach gives timeline for squad announcement
Defending champions South Africa took the first tangible steps to prepare for the World Cup in France later this year.
Following a three-week ‘rest period’, a group of 14 players started a three-week physical and rugby development camp in Cape Town this past Sunday.
The camp will conclude on Friday, March 10.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said it is just the start of a very long build-up to the global showpiece.
The Springboks will start their international campaign with a Rugby Championship clash against Australia at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria, on July 8.
That will be followed by clashes against New Zealand at in Auckland a week later and Argentina in Johannesburg on Saturday, July 29.
In August, the Boks will travel to Buenos Aires to take on Argentina – before facing Wales and the All Blacks in World Cup warm-up matches in Cardiff and London.
The World Cup gets underway on September 8, when hosts France tackle three-time champions New Zealand at Stade de France, in Saint-Denis.
South Africa will launch their World Cup title defence on Sunday, September 10, against Scotland in Marseille – which will be followed by pool matches against Romania in Bordeaux (September 17), Ireland in Paris (September 23) and Tonga in Marseille (October 1).
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said he won’t name his World Cup squad before August – which is the ‘deadline’ set by World Rugby.
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“We will stick to their protocol,” he said.
However, the Rugby Championship squad will be named soon after the South African franchises have completed their campaigns in Europe – the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup.
“I can’t imagine it will be before the competitions are concluded,” he said.
“There could be injuries, so it makes no sense to name a squad and then have to rename it.”
The URC Final is on May 27 and the European Cup Final is a week earlier.
Nienaber said a lot of work has been done since the year-end tour – which saw the Boks suffer narrow defeats to world No.1 Ireland (16-19) and No.2 France (26-30), before demolishing Italy (No.13 on the rankings – 63-21) and England (No.6 – 27-13).
“We have been working towards this [World Cup] year for a long time,” the Bok mentor said.
He added that there would be more of these ‘training camps’ in the build-up to the internationals, given the need for “intervention” from the Bok coaching squad as the international season approaches.
Nienaber also dismissed the notion that the 14 players at the current gathering in Cape Town is guaranteed places on the plane to France in September.
“The biggest reason for this camp is that a lot of these players have not had a break since before the  British and Irish Lions tour.”
He said players currently plying their trade abroad will also attend ‘alignment camps’ throughout the year.
“The number of players we are looking at [for the World Cup] is around 60,” the coach said, adding: “As we feel the need to insert ourselves on a specific topic and specific players, they will be invited [to camps].
“The overarching reason for this camp is to manage the players’ workload.”