Springboks to sharpen focus ahead of Lions tour

With the Rainbow Cup imminent, the Springbok coaching team will sharpen its focus ahead of all-important last few months before the British and Irish Lions tour.

SA Rugby announced on Tuesday the dates for a series of alignment camps that will see SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Head coach Jacques Nienaber and their management team meet with the top players around the country to start co-ordinating plans for the Lions tour.

The Boks haven’t played together since the World Cup victory in November 2019 and while the management have been in contact with the top players regularly, this is the same method they used to inform players where they stand and to sharpen plans for the test series in July.

Following the three days of alignment activities in Gauteng, the Springbok management will travel to Durban where they will repeat the exercise with a selected group of Cell C Sharks players on Thursday and Friday, before returning to Cape Town.

The DHL Stormers’ players will attend a similar camp activity next Monday, while the Bok coaching and management staff are due to visit Bloemfontein next Wednesday.

A number of player orientation camps are spread over the next few weeks, including a couple of assemblies for the Springbok players based abroad in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Japan.

The 2021 season sees the much-anticipated Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa, with the Springboks taking on the British & Irish Lions on home soil, the Castle Lager Rugby Championship as well as the traditional end of year tour to Europe.

“With a very busy and demanding international season looming, it is important we get everyone aligned as soon as possible,” said Erasmus.

“Although Jacques and his coaching staff have been in constant communication with the players throughout the past 15 months or so – keeping tabs on their performances, injury recovery and general wellbeing – we are now very excited and looking forward to meeting the players in a familiar team environment.”

With less than 90 days before the Lions arrive on South African shores, the need for alignment and focus is essential, and the Boks will be able to share their knowledge with the South African sides that will face European opposition in the Rainbow Cup. As Erasmus explained, every day counts.

“The local players will meet up with the coaches, medical and conditioning staff and rest of the management over the next two weeks, while we have similar plans for our European and Japanese-based players, with Felix Jones hosting sessions in the UK and France and the Japanese based-players joining us on virtual meetings,” explained Erasmus.

Nienaber, who took over as head coach in 2020, explained that due to the limited time available for the squad, it will be important that the players get as much logistical and other relevant arrangements out of the way before the start of the training camps.

“There’s a lot of excitement, from players to coaches and the management staff, to finally get together and kick-start our preparations for what promises to be a very busy and challenging international season,” said Nienaber.

“A lot of background planning has already been done, but we are now looking forward to shift our focus and preparation into a higher because time is of the essence. We have purposefully kept the groups small so we can drill into as much specifics as possible.

“The players will get a lot of logistics, technical and tactical detail to absorb so by the time we’ve completed this alignment roundup, they will all be up to speed of what exactly is required from them during their upcoming club and franchise games and the training camps leading up the Lions test series,” added Nienaber.

The Rainbow Cup starts on April 24 and will be played until June where the Boks are likely to go into a national camp until the Lions’ series.

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