- There are 17 Test matches to work with before the World Cup in 2023.
- Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is so spoilt for choice, he admits he needs to be alive to this "hectic" 2022 schedule as well as 2023 in France.
- The World Cup is significant because they need to defend it, and here is how Nienaber will juggle his seniors' work.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will be counting on his senior players between the first Test against Wales this year and all through to France 2023.
The mentor said the Bok are preparing for a "hectic" 2022 schedule while also keeping the 2023 World Cup, where they will look to defend their title, in mind.
2022 is shaping up to be a gruelling year and one that will be crucial to planning for France, and Nienaber is turning to his senior players, even those who have fitness concerns and age hovering over them currently.
Nienaber broached the subject when he listed the marquee of players chomping at the bit to play for the national team, especially at loose-forward.
"We honestly believe Duane [Vermeulen] can still make France 2023. We honestly believe Pieter Steph [Du Toit] can still make 2023, we still believe Siya Kolisi can make France 2023," the head coach said.
"When I say 'we still believe', that’s saying there aren't big injuries; that's saying they perform on the field and they do the main thing.
"The main thing is you must play rugby well on Saturday, so if they perform on the field and play like they are currently doing, we believe they can go to France 2023."
There are 17 Tests before France 2023 with the coach admitting they are working on securing an additional one.
"We've got quite a hectic schedule this year. It's going to be a tough season for us, but as I would tell our players, that's exactly what you want before a World Cup; you want to be tested against the best in the world," said Nienaber.
"If you look at our schedule, we will get tested by the best in the world and we will have to find solutions during 2022 and if you look at our pool [in the World Cup] and our schedule, I think we are going to be in the knockout stage from day one."
Nienaber's players will have to rise to the occasion and meet his expectations, but their welfare will also need to be balanced along the way.
"We have a performance plan that we put out," Nienaber began in explaining how players’ workloads would be managed.
"We will be transparent with the players."
He made it clear that players are clear on when rotations would happen – with a caveat: that it happens while they win.
"If you can win the first two Test matches [against Wales this winter] then it gives you an opportunity to get rotation in in the last match. You don’t want to lose momentum; so you want to do rotation without compromising rotation."
This standing fiat, according to Nienaber, happened in the England series of 2018, so there is precedent.
He said he would name his squad for Wales towards the end of May.