Newly appointed head coach Jacques Nienaber during the Springbok coaching staff announcement media conference at Southern Sun Pretoria on January 24, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa.Picture: JOHAN RYNNERS/GALLO IMAGES
Newly appointed head coach Jacques Nienaber during the Springbok coaching staff announcement media conference at Southern Sun Pretoria on January 24, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa.Picture: JOHAN RYNNERS/GALLO IMAGES

There is a reason for professional rugby players having extended preseason training routines before they go into combat.

That much is clear given the high attrition rate in New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa with all five franchises afflicted by crippling injuries‚ some hit harder than others.

Their orthopaedic upheaval has been monitored with more than a passing interest by the Springbok brains trust, who are hoping to get their players up to speed should they get the green light to play in the Rugby Championship‚ tentatively set down for an October kickoff.

Although they are keen to get back to full training‚ lockdown restrictions have kept them well separated.

While the Kiwis had a five-week return-to-play protocol before their players were unleashed on each other‚ SA’s players will probably require a seven-week build-up period before seeing combat.

It is hoped they will get to play in the eight-team Currie Cup, with Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber already intimating the players will need nothing short of six matches to get up to speed.

Even if they get that under the belt‚ the condensed six-week Rugby Championship will be taxing on the body. The Boks will probably have to take an enlarged group of players should they make it to New Zealand later in 2020 in a bid to lessen the individual workload‚ as well as other logistical considerations like avoiding quarantine should the playing squad need replenishing.

But playing highly demanding back-to-back fixtures on successive weekends is likely to take a physical and psychological toll.

“Most injuries occur when you have two or three really high-intensity matches‚” warned former Springbok conditioning coach Derik Coetzee in a recent interview with this writer.

“This is why your recovery period is critically important. The challenge is now to avoid doing too much as it can increase your risk of injury. Your management of the players’ workload will have to be managed superbly.

“There is a fine balance that needs to be achieved between their practice load and their match load‚” said Coetzee, who heads the faculty of health sciences at the University of the Free State.

The first hurdle the players have to negotiate is getting ready for the Currie Cup, which rugby officials hope will start in the last week of August or the first week of September.

They got the green light to resume noncontact training on July 20, but any meaningful preparation will start only when they are allowed to run into each other.

Meanwhile‚ the clock is ticking.

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