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Coach Jacques Nienaber during the South African national men's rugby team captain's run at Brisbane Boys College on September 17 2021 in Brisbane. Picture: TERTIUS PICKARD/GALLO IMAGES
Coach Jacques Nienaber during the South African national men's rugby team captain's run at Brisbane Boys College on September 17 2021 in Brisbane. Picture: TERTIUS PICKARD/GALLO IMAGES

It was about 18 months before the last Rugby World Cup that the Springboks’ march to the crown began in earnest.

The World Cup holders are now just inside that window to the next instalment and coach Jacques Nienaber this week declared himself satisfied after the year’s first alignment camp with 22 players in Durban.

Some felt he was left in a catch 22-situation given the mild uprising that followed his omission of loose forwards Evan Roos and Marcell Coetzee from the camp.

Nienaber sought at the weekend to explain what drives the selection process. He did so from a position of strength, given the Springboks status as world champions‚ most recent conquerors of the British and Irish Lions, and the top-ranked team in the world.

The building blocks positioned carefully in the lead-up to the last World Cup are still very much in place. That side was built on team culture‚ brotherhood and familiarity. Intimate knowledge of team systems and dynamics are essential. Coaches like to know what and who they are dealing with.

It is only natural for Nienaber and Co to gravitate towards the players who have served them well. Nienaber did, however, stress that they cannot be complacent, but to what extent that will apply to team selection further down the line remains to be seen.

Of course‚ cracking the nod for an alignment camp doesn’t mean automatic inclusion when the Boks run out against Wales in July.

Given the uncertainty with which SA had to approach the start of last season‚ Nienaber appears relieved the show is on the road.

“We are pleased with the outcomes achieved at our first alignment camp and I believe the players have a good idea of what is expected of them on and off the field as we look forward to a challenging international season‚” he said.

“As I explained before the camp‚ the key for us was to inform the players of what the calendar will look like for the year. And to paint the pictures we wanted to‚ so that we can ensure everyone is on the same page when we select our national squad for the series against Wales and then the Rugby Championship.

“Once we have finalised our squad for the Wales Tests‚ we will have a training camp where we will be able to put all of the aspects of the game we discussed into practice as we look to fine-tune certain areas of our game,” Nienaber said.

“Hosting these alignment camps will not only save time before our field sessions once the Springbok team get together‚ but it also gives the players a chance to start improving on certain aspects of their game individually as they continue their provincial commitments in the lead-up to the international season.”

The first alignment camp will be followed by camps with the overseas-based players in England and France‚ plus virtual meetings‚ all of which will take place between April 16 and 25. Another local alignment camp is set for Cape Town between May 1 and 5.


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