Boks face race against time

The Springboks will have minimal time to settle and prepare when their overseas-based stars join them ahead of the Test against England, says assistant coach Johann van Graan.

The bulk of the Bok squad is currently in Johannesburg preparing for the end-of-year tour. The group is set to depart for Europe this Friday. They will begin their sojourn with a match against the Barbarians at Wembley, and tackle England, Italy and Wales in the subsequent Tests.

The match against the Barbarians falls outside of the World Rugby-sanctioned window. English and French clubs are not obliged to release the Bok players in their ranks.

What this means is that some of the Boks' most experienced players, like flank Willem Alberts, wings JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, and prop Jannie du Plessis will only link up with the squad in the week leading up to the tour-defining clash with England.

Speaking to reporters from the team's base in Johannesburg, Van Graan admitted that the situation was 'not ideal'.

'It is unfortunately the reality of modern rugby and has been the case for a few seasons,' he said. 'While we will stay in contact with the players daily [over the next two weeks] we will have just a few sessions with them before the England Test.

'Fortunately, most of the overseas players like Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts are experienced. It is what it is and we have to make the best of it.'

Van Graan said the Boks are looking at the four-game tour as an opportunity to redeem themselves. South Africa lost four of their six Rugby Championship games, and sustained a record 57-15 loss to the All Blacks in their most recent match.

'To achieve this, we need to improve in almost every department,' the Bok attack coach said. 'In the northern hemisphere, you come up against teams that rush fast and you have to adapt your attacking approach.

'I am very satisfied with our performance in the scrum and lineout. We have a success rate of 93% which was the best in the Rugby Championship. In the northern hemisphere, there is a greater emphasis on the set pieces.'

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli