Springbok priorities are being tackled in a low-key but enthusiastic manner as a busy international season awaits the reigning World Cup champions.
Without too much fanfare, the Bok coaches and management will continue dealing with selected overseas-based stars on Friday, after they wrapped up a round of “strategic alignment camps” inside the country on Wednesday.
With the local camps and sessions with players based in Ireland completed, without media or fans involved, it is players based in Japan who will meet Bok coach Jacques Nienaber (pictured) and his fellow coaches online on Friday. Next week is the turn of men based in England and France.
Nienaber’s technical committee met with a number of players from the Lions and Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs over the last week, according to SA Rugby.
Joining the proceedings online were director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, assistant coach Felix Jones and head of athletic performance Andy Edwards.
Nienaber said on Thursday that the sessions were extremely productive and just what was needed to start the next phase of preparations, as the Springboks gear up for a return to Test rugby.
Their demanding 2021 schedule includes the much-anticipated Lions Series, the Rugby Championship and the traditional year-end tour to Europe, although sorting fixtures and spectator issues have been challenging for SA Rugby because of Covid-19.
Said Nienaber: “The players haven’t been together for more than 500 days, so there was a lot of excitement as you can imagine. 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 also described the camps as a reality check for the Springboks and explained that they had very specific goals in mind for the opening round of meetings. The Bok coaching brains trust wanted to get specific areas of information across to the players.
“Firstly, we shared general information around commercial and marketing engagements, because this is a British & Irish Lions tour and a bit different from your normal tour,” said Nienaber.
“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.
“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.”
SA Rugby also announced that three law variations have been approved by World Rugby for use in the coming PRO14 Rainbow Cup — red card replacements, captain’s challenge and goal-line drop-outs.
For a red card, the offending player will be removed from the field for 20 minutes, but after this time the team can replace this player with one of their nominated substitutes. The player who is given the red card will not be able to return to the pitch.
The law will also apply to players who receive two yellow cards (which results in an automatic red).
The captain’s challenge sees each team allowed one captain’s challenge in the match. These can be used for try-scoring and foul play incidents, or to challenge any refereeing decision in the last five minutes of a match.
In the goal-line drop-out rule for when held-up over the line, knock-ons that occur in goal or when the ball is grounded by a defending player in the in-goal area after a kick through, the defending team will take a drop-out from anywhere on the goal line.
The drop-out must be taken on or behind the defending team’s goal line and it must occur without delay. The ball must cut across the goal line and travel five metres.