The Springboks’ physiotherapist, Rene Naylor, says playing six domestic games before the Rugby Championship would have been the ideal scenario from a player welfare point of view.
Domestic rugby is set to return to South Africa as the country could drop to Covid-19 alert level 1, with President Cyril Ramaphosa to brief South Africans on Wednesday evening.
The big debate in South Africa has surrounded whether SA Rugby should allow the Springboks to go ahead with their involvement in the Rugby Championship, or prioritise a domestic tournament.
Speaking to RugbyRocks.com in an Instagram Live chat, Naylor said that with the best of player welfare in mind, the South African-based Springboks will need six games at least to be ready for the step-up in intensity that Test rugby brings.
‘As a medic, I’m putting on my player welfare hat. The players need to get at least four weeks of contact training and then go into domestic rugby,’ Naylor said.
‘We were hoping to play at least six domestic games before going into the Rugby Championship. That would be the ideal scenario, to be competitive and protect player welfare.’
South Africa’s franchises have recently returned to contact training and SARugbymag.co.za understands that this has been with the prospect of another ‘Marvel Superheroes’ double-header involving the four Super Rugby franchises in mind. This is set to take place at Loftus, with the Stormers playing the Lions and the Sharks facing the Vodacom Bulls.
A North vs South match – which would act as a Springbok trial – could follow before the Currie Cup takes place in October.
Naylor added that as South African players have been in lockdown for the past six months, the full impact of that could be revealed in the coming weeks.
‘I think our lockdown in South Africa, in particular, was quite severe. You definitely cannot compare injury stats with New Zealand, Australia and Europe because our guys have actually been in lockdown for longer and our lockdown was very strict.
‘They weren’t allowed outside or on pitches for a long time. Now coming back, we have only started with contact training a week ago. This is only their second week of contact training. Even though they did come back in level 4 and started training in little pods, rugby is not just training in groups of five. The real sports-specific conditioning only started a week ago in South Africa.
‘Obvously, you have seen the European players have gone back. Many of them have been in lockdown in South Africa,’ Naylor added. ‘Those who play in Japan [and returned there at the end of August] only came out of quarantine this week. So, our guys have really had a tough time. They were very good in working on their bodies, on their training back home as much as they could. But it was obviously limited.
‘The full effect of it we will see in the next few months when we actually go back into competition.’
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo