Bongi Mbonambi says there has been an accelerated intensity about the Springboks’ preparations as they seek to rediscover “high international standards” after such an extended period out of Test rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In exactly one week, the Springboks will return to action with a warm-up game against Georgia on 2 July.
It will bring an end to the most unprecedented period of international inactivity for the Springboks, with next Friday’s clash with Georgia coming virtually 20 months to the day since South Africa won the World Cup on 2 November 2019.
With just two warm-up matches scheduled before the Boks head into battle against the British & Irish Lions, it’s expected that the strongest possible side will be selected as they look to rediscover some team synergy at Test level.
Already, this past weekend, some warning signs flashed when South Africa’s leading franchise, the Bulls, were humbled by Benetton Treviso in the Rainbow Cup final, which highlighted how much of a challenge it can be when facing unfamiliar opponents from the northern hemisphere.
Mbonambi, who was in the form of his life for the majority of 2019, said it was important to maintain perspective as the Boks headed ever closer to a Test return.
“At the moment, I think what people don’t understand is that there is a massive difference between playing a local competition and heading into an international series.
“The difference is vast: the intensity is 10 times higher than just playing a local side or a local team. For the past few weeks, all the coaches have been trying to make sure that everyone gets back to that high international intensity.
“You can just feel the whole difference between training at your local franchise and coming into the Springboks’ set-up. I’m 100% sure that our bodies will be ready for that kind of intensity and we’ll definitely be prepared for it if you look at the way we are training now.”
The Boks have been settled in camp in Bloemfontein, and head coach Jacques Nienaber explained how in this week of training they had ramped up the preparation intensity to mirror that of Test rugby.
“Our objective over the past few weeks has been to just familiarise every player, as they join, to our strategies again, from attack to our ‘language’,” Nienaber explained.
On a personal level, Mbonambi is set to make a decisive career move when he heads from the Stormers to the Sharks later this year, but he reiterated that the only current focus was on the national preparations.
“For myself, personally, it’s been an amazing journey over the last few years. 2016 was obviously the year I made my debut for the Springboks against Ireland, that will always be a memory in my mind, putting in the hard work and I’m grateful to see that it’s paying off.
“Everyone here in the Springbok squad has their own story and has had their own journey, but once we get together here it is not about individuals anymore but the whole squad, and obviously just making sure that you leave this jersey in a better place than when you found it.
“Being part of the British & Irish Lions series is just amazing and for me it is a massive milestone in my career – something that only comes once every 12 years and there’s only the fortunate few who get to make it. Yeah, I’ll say on behalf of the whole group that it’s a massive honour for us.”