• Saffa stars linking up with clubs

    Overseas-based South African players will begin to regather with clubs abroad as Premiership teams get set for a return to training, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Earlier this week, Premiership clubs were handed the ground rules for a return to training in the first step to resuming the suspended 2019-20 season.

    The move to stage one training is seen as a defining moment in order to begin getting squads back up to speed in hopes of kick-starting competitive action in England.

    As is quite similarly the case in South Africa, the first sets of return to training are expected to include social distancing – either individually or in small groups.

    It’s hoped this will then pave the way for a move to stage two – contact training – in the not too distant future.

    Recently, incumbent Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk confirmed he was ‘Manchester bound’ as he gets set to rejoin English club the Sale Sharks, after returning to South Africa just before lockdown came into effect.

    Another World Cup winner and Saracens prop, Vincent Koch, is also on his way back to the UK after Premiership clubs received the green light on training.

    Other Bok teammates such as Damian de Allende and RG Snyman, for example, have been in Ireland preparing to link up with new club Munster. Snyman is in self-isolation in Limerick, while De Allende is already through his 14-day stint as per the safety protocols.

    It’s hoped that Irish provinces will also be able to resume training some time in June, while targeting a possible return to competition in late August.

    READ: Return-to-training plans under way

    These are all encouraging signs as rugby slowly begins to establish a phased return to some form of action.

    In an interview for the latest SA Rugby magazine, De Klerk highlighted how the period of inactivity had heightened his hunger for the game and refocused him for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.

    Following the 2019 World Cup, De Klerk returned to Sale, but then picked up a knee injury, from which he had only just recovered before competition was brought to a halt.

    ‘It’s definitely important to refocus a bit. For me, it was good to go back to Sale after the World Cup and reapply myself,’ he commented. ‘You couldn’t just win a World Cup and go back to your club and then not keep performing. So I had to refocus and prove my value in that squad, and luckily the club has been performing.

    ‘Going forward, winning the World Cup is the ultimate goal as a player, but you need to set new goals. The first one is to get back on the pitch and start playing well consistently again after this break. Whoever gets the chance needs to build on what we achieved last year. And if I got the opportunity to play against the Lions, I would want to play well and be part of a successful tour. That would be another dream come true, because the opportunity doesn’t come around very often.’

    Photo: Getty Images

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    Craig Lewis