Jacques Nienaber has suggested Japanese-based Bok players could train with local franchises to help stay fit ahead of the Rugby Championship.
While SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux has confirmed that the country will not be hosting any Test rugby this year due to ongoing government and health agency Covid-19 directives, it was confirmed on Wednesday that World Rugby has provided approval for the Rugby Championship to be hosted in full in a single country (set to be New Zealand) between 7 November and 12 December.
That will allow the Springboks to defend their Rugby Championship title against the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina. The prospect of international action comes as good news, but Nienaber will need to consider the lack of competitive action for some of his key players.
European-based players should all have had some form of competitive action under the belt when the Rugby Championship kicks off as the English Premiership, PRO14 and French Top will be in full swing by then. Even locally-based Boks are set to get playing time as SA Rugby has already confirmed to be arranging an eight-team competition for later in the year.
But it’s the fate of Boks playing in the Japan that could be of concern. The 2020 Japanese Top League season has been called off due to Covid-19 and the new season only kicks off off in January 2021.
That means Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Makazole Mapimpi (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Malcolm Marx (Shining Arcs) and Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Jubilo) – who were all part of the World Cup-winning Bok squad – will not play competitively before the Rugby Championship.
‘It’s not ideal that they won’t be exposed to rugby [in the interim period]; but I am speaking to them and will address that challenge,’ Nienaber told Sport24 on Thursday.
‘But they are among the various Bok players who are in constant communication with our strength and conditioning people.
‘Five of them are in South Africa right now. Only Franco is still in the UK and what we hope is that their clubs will allow them to train for a while with a South African franchise.
‘But there are other deal-breakers, like the fact that their contracts must be insured, and also whether our franchises will be willing to have them train even while knowing they’re not involved on the playing side.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Hollywoodbets