Nienaber: Boks given a reality check in alignment camps

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says the first round of alignment camps have been extremely productive as players around the country shift their preparations for the upcoming Test season.

Nienaber, his assistants and the rest of the management staff met with a number of players in Johannesburg (Lions and Vodacom Bulls), Durban (Sharks), Cape Town (Stormers) and Bloemfontein (Cheetahs) during a series of camps over the past week.

Rassie Erasmus (director of rugby), Felix Jones (assistant coach) and Andy Edwards (head of athletic performance) joined the proceedings online.

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Nienaber described the sessions as extremely productive and just what was needed to start the next phase of preparations as the Springboks gear up for a return to Test rugby, with a very busy international calendar looming.

The demanding 2021 schedule includes the much-anticipated British & Irish Lions series, the Rugby Championship and the traditional end-of-year tour to Europe.

SA Rugby was forced to withdraw the Springboks from all international participation in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning the last time the Boks played was the World Cup final against England on 2 November 2019.

After the conclusion of their final session in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, Nienaber said he was very satisfied with the outcome of the first round of alignment camps.

‘The players haven’t been together [in a Springbok set-up] for more than 500 days, so there was a lot of excitement as you can imagine,’ said the head coach.

‘Just meeting face to face was absolutely great, because I haven’t seen some of the players since the Rugby World Cup victory tour parade in November 2019.

‘It was reality check for us in terms of where we were in 2019 and where we are currently in 2021, and where we have to turn our focus towards and improve during our preparations,’ Nienaber added.

The Bok coaching brains trust wanted to get four specific areas of information across to the players.

‘Firstly we shared general information around commercial and marketing engagements, because this is a British & Irish Lions tour and a bit different from your normal tour,’ said Nienaber.

‘It was also a good opportunity to work through our various team protocols again, with the Test calendar and the effects of the pandemic in mind, but we gave them a schedule with as much detail as possible.’

With the local camps and sessions with players based in Ireland completed, the attention now turns to the rest of the overseas-based Springboks. Those in Japan will meet Nienaber and his fellow coaches online on Thursday, and next week it is the turn of the players based in England and France.

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