‘Not ideal preparation for Rugby Champs’

Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White says SA Rugby is in a difficult position in deciding whether to send the Springboks to this year’s Rugby Championship.

SA Rugby on Saturday confirmed that the Springboks’ ability to participate in the Rugby Championship will be finalised early next week. SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus had previously told the media a fortnight ago that he expected a final decision to be made no later than 10 October.

The Springboks are set to defend their title in Australia between 7 November and 12 December, but several hurdles need to be cleared first if the team is to participate.

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The South African government lifted the ban on international sporting participation a week ago and directions to manage such participation were published on Wednesday evening.

However, this is still a concern over player welfare and management, with South Africa having only just returned to competitive action again.

The New Zealanders and Australians, meanwhile, have both completed their own domestic Super Rugby tournaments and faced off in their first Bledisloe Cup Test on Sunday.

Speaking after the Bulls opening victory over Griquas, former Bok coach White sympathised with the difficult decision facing Erasmus and co.

‘From a rugby perspective, as an ex-coach, I think it’s fantastic that the boys want to play Test matches,’ White said.

‘I understand fully that it’s not the ideal preparation and, probably, if I was a coach I’d be asking SA Rugby to try and find ways in which we don’t participate because the situation is a bit unfair.’

Due to current Covid-19 regulations in Australia, Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber are planning to take an extended squad to Australia, in order to avoid replacement players having to quarantine if there are any injuries.

However, that would mean a reliance on more match-fit overseas-based players. As White pointed out, getting the players released brings a logistical challenge in itself.

‘There are club guys that will have to get out of their commitments in that regard, [which is difficult when you are expecting] a decision to be made this week,’ White said. ‘Allied to that are locally based players who’ve only played two competitive games and now have to go into Rugby Championship. It’s not ideal.

‘I also fully understand that there are other things that come into play. We are the current holders of the title and there is the matter of television rights being place. If you’re sitting in the boardroom and you’re doing the sums you have a perception of what should happen and if you’re a coach you have another.

‘It’s a difficult decision to make. I’m sure whatever will need to be, will be.’

Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo