The year has really started with a bang – we’re a few weeks into Vodacom Super Rugby, the Guinness PRO14 competition is nearing the business end, and the Springbok season has been meticulously planned and the first alignment and training camps before the Castle Lager Rugby Championship commences are already visible on the horizon.
The shortened Castle Lager Rugby Championship will be followed by an additional home Test against Argentina – our last Test in South Africa before we fly to Japan – and then we will assemble for a Rugby World Cup training camp in Bloemfontein.
Our 31-man RWC squad will be confirmed just before we travel to Japan for a pre-tournament camp, which includes a warm-up Test against the Brave Blossoms, and then it’s RWC time and the first of our four Pool B matches, against the All Blacks on 21 September in Tokyo.
Our planning for Japan is in full swing, but as you know the RWC is not the only item on our agenda for this year. Before we head to the Far East, we also have to contest the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, an additional home match against Argentina and a warm-up game in Japan. So, there’s a lot of work to be done before the RWC kicks off.
The Springbok coaching, medical and conditioning staff have been visiting all six franchises to share our plans for the season with all the Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness Pro 14 players and coaching staff.
It’s all about the working relationship and certainly no demands from our side, and I must say these exercises have been tremendously positive and a step-up from last year.
Seven alignment camps are planned between March and June and with the franchises buying into our plans, it is very important that we get the players in a fit and healthy state for the Springbok Tests.
This year we got into much more detail and as you’re aware, in 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby runs uninterrupted from February through to the beginning of July. It means that we will have the players available from the end of their campaigns right through to the Rugby World Cup.
It’s great for continuity because we will have the squad together in camp for up to 12 weeks before the start of the RWC in Japan. That will give us as Bok coaches a great opportunity to work extensively with the players and we have quite a few plans in place for what we want to achieve during that period of time.
In the bigger scheme of things, this year is all about the RWC, however we cannot afford to lose sight of our three Caste Lager Rugby Championship games and the extra match against the Pumas.
We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes and the camp and warm-up match in Japan will allow give us time to acclimatise to the Japanese conditions. Its means we will be away from home for a lengthy period of time, but we believe it will benefit the team.