Bok coach: Fire-pit incident not ideal, but accidents happen

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber is cautiously optimistic that Damian de Allende and RG Snyman’s availability for the British & Irish Lions series won’t be jeopardised by this past weekend’s fire-pit incident. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

News broke on Monday that the Bok duo had sustained burns to their legs, hands and face after being involved in a ‘fire-pit accident’ along with two other Munster teammates over the weekend.

De Allende, Snyman, Mike Haley and CJ Stander required treatment after being rushed to hospital after the incident, but while the latter two suffered superficial burns and are expected to return to training this week, the Bok pair sustained what was initially described as more substantial burns.

Details around exactly what happened are still somewhat unclear, with De Allende stating that a Munster teammate had thrown petrol over their pit fire, which then led to the flammable can exploding.

Other sources have suggested the accident was in fact as the result of a prank gone wrong, with the incident occurring at what some reports have stated was a bachelor’s party for another Munster player.

READ: How Bok duo were injured in fire-pit incident

The players will see another specialist on Friday, with the Munster medical staff hoping to do all they can to assist before the Bok duo are released to South Africa.

Snyman was already in the midst of an injury rehabilitation, but it does appear that the accident-related burns will not threaten his or De Allende’s involvement in the British & Irish Lions series.

Munster assistant coach Stephen Larkham described the accident as a frightening experience, and suggested there was ‘a lot of relief’ because it could have been a ‘lot worse’.

‘From the coaches’ perspective, it was just an accident. They’re all grown men, responsible men and it just got away from them,’ Larkham commented.

On Wednesday, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber fronted up at a virtual Springbok media conference, and understandably the incident was one of the first subjects he was asked to address.

‘I’ve spoken to both of them, and they are fine, that is most important thing, and their families are fine. Often the first instinct is just to ask whether they are ready to play or not, but you need to first check on their well-being.

‘They are seeing a burn specialist, and if he clears them to fly, or whenever he does, they’ll be on a plane back to us, bearing in mind they may need a couple of days so sort out logistics and flight times.’

Asked whether it was frustrating to have received such news of this kind of mishap as a Springbok coach, Nienaber adopted a pragmatic point of view.

‘Accidents happen and, as with any accident, it’s not ideal. But it’s not something we can control. I actually understand from my time in Munster and knowing what the weather is like, if you want to have a wood fire then you throw some petrol on and light it that way because the wood is often wet. I did the same.

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‘That’s the way it is done over there. They explained it me, and it made sense. The fire just ran up into the canister, then the canister fell and ran up on to them.

‘I’ve worked in a burns unit during my medical days, so I understand the pain of the recovery and healing process that they are now facing. So, we’ve wished them well and luckily it was largely superficial burns. It could have been worse, but it’s not going to be a deep scarring thing and they are going to get through it.

‘Of course, it’s not ideal; as a head coach you’d want them to be fine and training, but now we have to make plans to get them into the mix as soon as possible while taking care of their well-being first and foremost.’

Nienaber added that he thought there was still a chance of the duo even being available for the two warm-up Tests against Georgia in early July.

‘If there is an infection, or if there was any other reason they can’t fly to us, then it would be challenging. But we will just need to be adaptable.’

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Craig Lewis