Bok duo eye flight to NZ
Pretoria – The one was outstanding when the Springboks won the Webb Ellis Trophy on that magical night in Paris and the other one has never lost against the All Blacks.
That means one thing only – you can’t go to New Zealand without them.
No wonder then that Juan Smith and Heinrich Brüssow have quietly been preparing for the Rugby World Cup later this year.
Smith has just spent three weeks in Johannesburg to rehabilitate his injured Achilles tendon, while Brüssow has been under the watchful eye of Bok conditioning coach Derik Coetzee in Bloemfontein.
Both players told Sport24 that they hope to be on the plane to New Zealand with the Springboks for their World Cup campaign on 1 September.
In fact, Brüssow is already targeting the flight to Sydney in less than two weeks’ time – when the Bok squad flies out on 15 July for their Tri-Nations games against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
If he’s not on that flight, Brüssow hopes to play for the Free State against the Leopards in the Currie Cup the next day.
“I have to get on the field now. I have been sitting on my backside doing nothing for long enough,” said Brüssow.
“My injury is fine now and I have been training very hard with Doc Derik Coetzee for the past three weeks. I’m very happy with my fitness levels and what I have managed to do with the Doc. Now it’s just a matter of getting match-fit.”
Brüssow missed virtually the entire 2010 season after tearing knee ligaments and on his return this year first struggled with a rib injury and then a hamstring.
The latter injury immediately led to fears that he would not regain full fitness and he was sent to gym where Coetzee “synchronised” his muscles.
Coetzee also helped with the conditioning of the Boks when Jake White was head coach and Brüssow said that he had been helpful.
“He had a look at which muscles weren’t 100% strong and we got that right. I have to get on the field now because I’m ready. There is a difference between being running fit and match-fit.”
Brüssow accepts that there is no free ticket to the Bok side – “too many loose forwards are playing very good rugby for that to be the case” – but he hopes to get the green light to play in the Tri-Nations.
“I don’t know what the coaches are planning, but that is my aim. We will probably hear this week (when the Boks convene on 5 July) exactly what the plans are.”
Brüssow does not think he will need to change too much.
“It’s rather about how you play the referee than the laws because their interpretations are all different. So there is a fine line that one has to tread,” said the fetcher extraordinaire.
Meanwhile, Smith has been working on a special treadmill at the Morningside Clinic for the past three weeks to get the Achilles tendon right. He only stepped on his foot with his full weight for the first time this past week.
“I always knew that I would be in a race against time to make the World Cup squad, but I’m confident that it will be possible. My first goal is to play in the local leg of the Tri-Nations,” said Smith.
He was able to work on his upper body in the gym (“I have never been so strong”) and thanks to cycling sessions in the gym the cardiovascular work was not neglected. However, it was a special treadmill that was needed to help him on the road to recovery.
“It’s a treadmill where you walk a kind of airbubble that helps them to determine with how much body weight you can walk on your foot. In my case we started with 20% three weeks ago and steadily increased the weight,” said Smith.
“On Wednesday I was able to jog on my own weight for 10 minutes and that was a huge relief,” added the veteran of 69 Tests.
“Fortunately I knew from the start that the more I put in now, the better my chance would be of making the team and recovering in time.”
Smith said that the next phase of training – on the field – would be approached with similar intensity.
“I have to make contact and start playing again. The forced rest was good for me, but now I can’t wait to play again.”
The country is also eagerly anticipating the moment.