Boks appoint Walters replacement

Andy Edwards, the experienced Saracens Strength and Conditioning coach, has been appointed as the new Head of Athletic Performance for the Springboks.

SA Rugby confirmed on Friday that Edwards will take up his new role with the Springboks on 1 August, and will travel to Cape Town as soon as possible considering the resumption of international travel to South Africa. 

His appointment follows the departure of Aled Walters, who recently returned to the United Kingdom after a successful two-year stint with the national team. Walters was credited as a key part of Erasmus’ coaching unit, helping the Springboks raise their fitness before the successful 2019 World Cup campaign.

SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said Edwards will be a good fit for the Springboks in the specialist role.

‘Andy will bring with him a wealth of international knowledge from his time of working with a range of top-class coaches and players at Saracens, achieving success in England and in Europe.

‘He comes highly recommended for what is an important role where you need someone with a proven record and international experience. During his time with Saracens he also worked with many South Africans playing for the club, which will help him to settle into the role.’

Edwards has occupied the role of Head of Strength and Conditioning Coach since 2014, and was a member of the team which saw Saracens capture five English Premiership league crowns and three European titles in his successful 15-year stint at the club.

He has international experience from a period as the strength and conditioning coach for the England Saxons (the England ‘A’ team) between 2011-2016, which included a tour to South Africa for a two-match series against the South African A side in Bloemfontein and George.

ALSO READ: Ralepelle’s rise and fall a cautionary tale

Following a brief two-year spell as a player with the club (from 2004, as fullback), Edwards joined Saracens in 2006 as the Academy’s strength and conditioning coach. Since then he has steadily climbed the ladder from senior S&C coach to his involvement with the England Saxons, until his 2014 appointment as Saracens Head of Strength and Conditioning.

 Edwards described his new role as an incredible opportunity to work with the 2019 World Cup-winning Springbok squad.

‘From my discussions with both Rassie and Jacques Nienaber I know that they place a huge emphasis on creating a family environment for the Springboks, and that is something that means a lot to me personally.

‘My family and I will be moving to Cape Town and are really looking forward to meeting everyone involved with the Springboks and experience the incredible, diverse South African culture.

‘From a personal point of view, I am very excited about working with a new group of coaches and players. There is a massive challenge ahead over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the journey with the team.’

ALSO READ: Boks need a ‘bubble’ to play

Saracens is known as a club with a very strong South African influence, something that Edwards is particularly familiar with.

‘I’ve always been fond of the South Africans who have played at the club, whom have always contributed a lot to the team and been great blokes to have around the place,” said Edwards, adding he will always be indebted to Saracens for offering him a great opportunity when he started out as a young professional coach.

‘I want to thank Saracens from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be part of such a special group of people for so many years. I have had the privilege of working with some of the best players and coaches in the world and am proud to have played a small part in the clubs success. I am leaving with wonderful memories on and off the field along with lifelong friends. My partner Lorena and I will forever cherish our time here.’

Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images