Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said the Boks intend repeating the plan that saw them clinch the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title in 2019 by splitting the squad for the opening two Tests of the competition as they zoom in on the southern hemisphere showpiece.
This will see a group of players and management members travel to Auckland the week of the opening Test against Australia at Loftus Versfeld (on Saturday 8 July) to acclimatise and get their preparations underway for the second Test, a week later against New Zealand at Mount Smart Stadium (Saturday 15 July).
This will be followed by the third and final Test of the shortened version of the tournament two weeks later against Argentina at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg ( Saturday 29 July).
“We have a pretty good idea about how we want to split the squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, but a lot needs to happen before we make a call on selection,” said Nienaber.
“We’ll probably make a decision the week before the Australia Test. As we mentioned last week, we are not selecting A and B sides. We are doing something similar to what we did in 2019 by selecting a team that is good enough to beat Australia at Loftus Versfeld.”
SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Nienaber were also pleased to have flyhalf Elton Jantjies back in the mix and said his experience was valuable for the team.
“A big benefit of having Elton in the squad is that there is no rush for Handre (Pollard) and Damian (Willemse) to hurry their injuries,” said Erasmus.
“They can take their time and heal properly. That said, there’s a good chance that Damian will be cleared (medically) next week.”
Erasmus added: “Elton has close to 50 Test caps and in 2020 he was named SANZAARs South African Super Rugby Player of the Decade, so there isn’t much he still has to learn. He also helps the young players on the field, so he’s a valuable player.”
With the Springboks entering the second week of their Castle Lager Rugby Championship training camp, Nienaber said there was a fantastic atmosphere in the squad: “The energy in the squad is good and the players are working hard to build on the foundation we laid last week. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are on a good trajectory.”
Nienaber also revealed that leading South African referee Jaco Peyper – who is on the match official panel for the Rugby World Cup – is currently with the team to assist them in their interpretation of the laws of the game.
“One of the additions to our camp this week is that we brought in Jaco Peyper to assist us to keep up to date with the laws of the game, so know we are on the right track,” said Nienaber.