Nienaber Excited As Bok Alignment Camp Kicks Off


Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber expressed his excitement on Sunday as the national team kicked off their preparations for the season with their first alignment in Durban, and said the camps were vital as they look ahead to a challenging international season.

A group of 22 players were invited to the camp, with the Bok coach stressing that there were different objectives they would like to achieve with each player invited, and Nienaber made it clear that while they knew what several players outside of this group had to offer, they were also monitoring a wide network of players on a weekly basis with a little under three months before their opening Test against Wales.

The Springboks will face Wales in three Tests in the Castle Lager Incoming Series on consecutive Saturdays from 2 to 16 July, which will be followed by the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in August and September, which features two home Tests against the All Blacks and one against Argentina, and three away Tests – two against Australia and one against Argentina.

Commenting on the three-day camp in Durban, Nienaber said the alignment camps add a lot of value: "There are injured players here and this allows us to have a look at them and see where they are injury wise, which will give our medical team a good projection on them so that we can keep tabs on them.

“Also, we do not have pre-seasons like other sides where they can align over a period of time. We get together close to our Test matches, and (as the Springboks) we do things differently to some franchises in terms of how and when we train and how we do things, so having a group of guys for three days in a row is good for us.

“As an example, the players can pop in directly to our performance team and ask how we do things here, so that when they enter this environment at Test level, it does not come as a shock to them.”

Looking ahead at the three Test Series against Wales, Nienaber cautioned against underestimating the visitors despite the fact that they only registered one victory in the Six Nations, against Scotland, and said: “Wayne Pivac (Wales head coach) and some of his management members were here for a visit in the last few days and he made no bones about the fact that they haven’t won a series in South Africa yet and that it is one of the big goals they have set for themselves.

“Looking at their performances in the Six Nations, they had a few big injuries this season, and over and above that we have had some close results against them in the past. On our UK tour last year, it was the first time in eight years that we beat them at home, so we are expecting an arm wrestle.”

Nienaber added: “To zone into two of Wales’ Six Nations games, they were 12-0 down against England at Twickenham and they went on to score three tries in the last 20 minutes. So, Wales are one of those teams that don’t go away and that keep putting you under pressure.

“Against France, who won the Grand Slam and who are one of the in-form teams in the world, they were 10-9 behind at halftime, and France went on to win 13-9, so if one looks at it realistically, they could only score three points into the second half.”

Following a fair bit of criticism about the Springboks’ game plan last season, Nienaber said it remained a goal for the team to innovate in terms of their style of play, but that it was equally important to play according to their strengths against each opposition side.

“It’s nice to have a good base to build on, as it allowed us to look at what worked and what didn’t and have a look at what we can continue to build on,” said Nienaber.

“Before last season, the previous game we could look at was the Rugby World Cup final.

“If one wants a disaster as a team, you must fail to improvise and improve. The big challenge for us will be to remain creative. But at the same time, some things are working for us.

“If you look at the results, we had a fairly average season last year, but given the conditions that we operated in with the bio-safe environments, the players performed well to win the Castle Lager Lions Series and beat New Zealand away after 16 weeks away from their families.”