The Springboks’ search for common ground under new coach Rassie Erasmus took shape this week at a second "alignment" camp on the banks of the Vaal River.
Players from the Bulls‚ Stormers and Lions have all been involved with Erasmus and the Sharks players will be next in a fortnight‚ after completing their recent Super Rugby tour.
In total 22 players attended the latest session‚ which was theoretical as Erasmus and his management staff worked towards cementing tactics and style with a group of players that come from different franchises.
One of the key elements to success is a proper defensive strategy for the Boks and something defence coach Jacques Nienaber has been tasked with overseeing. Given that defence takes time to bed down‚ Nienaber is under pressure to find a system that can have immediate impact‚ while also improving over time.
"The franchises are operating different defence systems‚" Nienaber said.
"The Bulls and the Stormers are using line speed and mirror New Zealand teams. The Lions are more passive in general‚ although in certain instances they will get off the line quickly. Practically we can’t build a single system in 80 minutes.
"Let’s say I favour a passive defence but half the team have been playing a line speed-based defence in Super Rugby. They won’t easily adapt to a new system. Once fatigue sets in they will revert to what they have been doing for months at their franchises.
"I will make a case for certain personality types when selection comes up. A defensive leader must be someone who relishes responsibility and is willing to take on risk."
Erasmus said the Springbok management was pleased with the amount of work done with the large group at the recent camp.
"We were able to work with a combined total of 34 players from three different franchises during the first two camps‚" said Erasmus. "I am sure that after the final camp‚ we would have covered a lot of groundwork with most of the players we have in mind for the June internationals.
"The sessions are very intense and we are confident that everyone — players‚ coaching staff and the various franchise team representatives who sat in during the sessions — will all be aligned and have a clear picture of our plans for Wales and England after these camps.
"I want to reiterate that the success of the June Tests will be determined by how the Springbok coaching staff and the players follow through on what was agreed upon at the camps when the players are back at their teams," he said.
Several coaching staff members of the Lions and the Stormers were also present at the second camp.
Swys de Bruin (head coach) and Ivan van Rooyen (conditioning coach) from the Lions joined their players at the planning and technical sessions.
The Stormers’ Russell Winter (assistant coach)‚ Paul Treu (assistant coach) and Steph du Toit (conditioning coach) were also present.
The Springboks start their international commitments with a clash against Wales in Washington DC on June 2. They then return immediately to SA to face England in the first of three Tests on consecutive weekends.