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'The fire just ran up into the canister, the canister fell and the petrol fell over their legs'

By Liam Heagney
(Photos by Getty Images)

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Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has defended fire put duo Damian de Allende and RG Snyman, claiming that he understands from his own experience of living in Ireland the accident that occurred last when the pair were socialising with Munster’s CJ Stander and Mike Haley.


All four were taken to hospital after suffering burns and rather than attach any blame to anyone for the incident, Nienaber reasoned what took place was an unfortunate accident and nothing else. The new Springboks boss worked in Munster some years ago as defence coach when Rassie Erasmus was director of rugby at the Irish province and he explained the dynamics of what had unfortunately unfolded in Limerick for de Allende and co.

“It’s not ideal,” he said when quizzed about the issue during a virtual midweek Springboks media briefing from Bloemfontein. “But it’s not something we can control and that is why people call it an accident. For me being in Ireland, I understand what happened.

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“To put it in context, it rains a little bit more in Ireland than in South Africa and even in Ireland when I was there if you wanted to use wood fire on a brai or sit in front a wood fire like we do in South Africa if you miss home a little bit, I did the same. I took a little bit of petrol and threw it on top of the wood to light it because otherwise the wood is wet and you can’t get it burning.

“I did it the same way everybody does it over there and accidents happen. They explained it to me and it makes perfect sense. The fire just ran up into the canister and the canister fell and the petrol fell over their legs, but it’s superficial burns and thanks goodness for that.

“I have worked in a burns unit as a physio for three years so I understand the pain and I said to them I understand the road you guys are going to walk now and good luck with that, but luckily it’s superficial. It’s very unfortunate and I feel for them. It could have been way worse – there could have been kids that caught fire.


“Accidents happen like that. I’m just thankful they are fine and it’s not going to be a lasting or a deep scaring thing and they are going to get through it. Is it ideal for me as the head coach? No, I would have loved them to be fine and to train and all that but unfortunately it is an accident and it happened and we just have to try now to make plans to get them into the mix as quickly as possible while looking after their welfare and well-being.”

Haley and the soon-to-retire Stander were said to be potentially returning to Munster training this week ahead of their match away to Zebre despite burns to their hands, but de Allende and Snyman would not be training any time soon after suffering more substantial burns to their legs, hands and face. The Springboks pair were due to visit their burns specialist again on Friday, after which Nienaber should learn when exactly de Allende and Snyman will be travelling to the southern hemisphere to link up with the South African squad.

“I spoke to both of them and they are fine, which is the most important thing, and their families are fine. They are seeing the specialist that looks after their burns and whenever he clears them to fly they will be on a plane coming back to us, bearing in mind that just gives them a couple of days to get the logistics sorted out in terms of booking the flight.

“Will they be able to play against Georgia? Currently, as I am sitting here if everything goes according to plan, I think they will. The challenge is if they get an infection or if for some medical reason they can’t fly to us as soon as possible which makes it a little more challenging. In terms of that, we will have to be adaptable and it’s something we can’t unfortunately control.


“It is going to be determined by how quick their wounds heal and when they can get on a plane, come over here and start training again. That can be anything between two and four weeks. We just have to wait and see but currently sitting here I’m a very optimistic guy and they will be good to go from a burns perspective.

“For RG from his knee perspective, there is a lot of things we will have to assess when he gets here, our selection protocol and then physical readiness. There are a few boxes that need to get ticks those then we look at his rugby.”


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