Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has given his potential Test prospects a ‘reality check’ as the British and Irish Lions tour approaches.
There hasn’t been a full Springbok camp in over 500 days, and Nienaber says that his charges have confronted with where they need to be ahead of one of the biggest challenges in Test rugby. Added to this, Springbok preparations have taken a blow with the news last weekend that the South African Super Rugby franchises look unlikely to compete in the Rainbow Cup after the UK government kiboshed them using a base in Bristol.
That decision means Nienaber’s Springboks could be robbed of yet more exposure to high-level rugby, something they’ve had precious little of since their Rugby World Cup victory in 2019.
“The players haven’t been together (in a Springbok setup) for more than 500 days, so there was a lot of excitement, as you can imagine,” said Nienaber. “Just meeting face-to-face was absolutely great, because I haven’t seen some of the players since the Rugby World Cup victory tour parade in November 2019.”
Nienaber was speaking following the conclusion of their final session in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, the last of a series of alignment camps that he says have been successful.
However, Nienaber described the camps as a reality check for his aspiring Springboks and for the management team itself.
“It was reality check for us in terms of where we were in 2019 and where we are currently in 2021, and where we have to turn our focus towards and improve during our preparations,” said Nienaber. “Firstly, we shared general information around commercial and marketing engagements, because this is a British and Irish Lions tour and a bit different from your normal tour.”
“It was also good opportunity to work through our various team protocols again, with the Test calendar and the effects of the pandemic in mind, but we gave them a schedule with as much detail as possible.”
With the squad being apart since the World Cup and expected to hit the ground running against the Lions in under 80 days time, it was vital to get everyone in sync as soon as possible, said Nienaber.
“I would say the big part of these assemblies was the reality check exercise, to see where we are as a team, not just the players, but also the whole management – with that steering our focus to the areas we have to improve,” Nienaber added.
“And another major objective was for the players to have a clear understanding of exactly what is required of them to be considered for Springbok section.”
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