No rest for senior Springboks

2010-10-20 00:00

SPRINGBOK rugby coach Peter de Villiers has apparently done an about-turn and will take his strongest available squad, and a host of tired bodies, on the Grand Slam tour of the United Kingdom next month.

De Villiers said last month that some 13 senior players would be rested and not taken on tour after a long, largely unsuccessful year of tough rugby.

But that was before the Bok coach appeared before the SA Rugby Union (Saru) review committee and it appears he is now under intense pressure to produce results or walk the plank.

Indeed, both he and Saru are pinned between that sharp rock and an unforgiving place. Everyone, from sports science guru Tim Noakes down, agrees that the over-extended players need to be given a lengthy break from the game if they are to be in any condition to defend their World Cup title in New Zealand next year.

But watching from the sidelines are impatient rugby supporters who are demanding instant success after a season of gloom.

And so, included in the preliminary Bok training squad for the tour are Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Morné Steyn, Bryan Habana, Pierre Spies, the Du Plessis brothers and Jean de Villiers.

The one piece of encouraging news is that Saru officials have cleared the way for overseas players to join the Boks when needed.

This follows the ongoing and unseemly public spat between De Villiers and young Frans Steyn, who is playing club rugby for Racing Metro in France.

Steyn’s future with the Boks seemed to be over when he criticised De Villiers for failing to attend a meeting scheduled for last month and Saru responded by saying that his French club had been officially informed that their trip to Paris had been postponed.

In the latest development Saru manager Andy Marinos last week travelled to the UK and Europe and met with overseas-based Springboks and their clubs.

“It was a visit that had been rescheduled from September to meet the clubs and the players to make sure that the channels of communication are properly open and they are clear of our intentions,” Marinos told News24.

“Obviously no one is guaranteed selection, but the positive to come out of it was that the players are committed to playing for the Springboks and that we have an understanding with the clubs on the operation of the release periods.”

Overseas players thought to be part of the Springboks’ plans are all former Sharks — Steyn, the Ulster pair of Ruan Pienaar and BJ Botha, and Bath flyhalf Butch James, who is currently nursing a shoulder injury that is likely to sideline him for another month.

Meanwhile, Sharks coach John Plumtree is unconcerned that 11 of his players, preparing for the Currie Cup final, will be at a Bok training camp this weekend.

“We knew beforehand this was going to happen and we have adapted our plans. My plan was to allow the players to rest for the first few days of this week and for us to get back together on Thursday and Friday.

“I don’t have a problem with my guys going to the Bok camp, but don’t want them to do a lot of physical work there.”

Saru spokesman Andy Colquhoun said the camp would centre on discussions of game plans and logistical planning for the tour and not any hard work on the training pitch.

The Sharks have 11 players in the training squad, while WP have seven.

“We will do the same things that brought us success during the course of the season,” Plumtree said. “It serves no purpose to try and be clever and brainstorm new ideas just because it is a final. We will stick to the recipe that is working.

“There are two good teams in the final, but you have to admit that Province have all the stars. There is always a danger against teams like that of feeling that you can’t beat them. That is why it was important from a psychological perspective that we beat the Blue Bulls on Saturday.

“Beating them has to lift your confidence,” Plumtree said.

The final on October 30 will kick off at 5.30 pm. A limited number of single tickets are available at R350 (adults) and R170 (children).

Players at the training camp:

Sharks: Adrian Jacobs, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski, Gerhard Mostert, Beast Mtawarira.

Province: Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ricky Januarie, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen.

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