Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – They may not all be “coining it” immediately to the extent that certain foreign-based colleagues are, but Springbok RWC 2015 players contracted only to domestic franchises are about to reap the benefits of an unusually lengthy off-season.
In a development that ought to see them importantly start a heavy 2016 roster pretty firmly refreshed both physically and mentally, those players are largely off competitive duty for the next four months.
Outside of a World Cup year, the month of November would normally see them packing bags – no doubt just a little reluctantly – for the obligatory end-of-year European tour in conditions likely to be wetter and colder than those agreeably experienced during the recent, more autumnal World Cup in those climes.
Instead the beach beckons back home now as relevant Boks with extended international futures like Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane, Rudy Paige, Pat Lambie and Jesse Kriel wipe rugby from their minds for several weeks until Super Rugby 2016 pre-season activities with their respective sides.
Even then, blue-chip Bok players are often shielded to a significant extent from warm-up matches staged in inevitably murderous summer heat, and largely asked to instead hit the ground running when the competition-proper gets underway.
The 2016 competition, featuring a controversial expansion to 18 teams and complex new structure, begins on February 26, so almost four full months will have passed by the time the players mentioned get back into full competitive action, and that amounts to a very welcome recharge.
But Super Rugby also runs all the way to a final on August 6, with the month of June excluded – only because that reverts to a customary Test window period.
The Castle Rugby Championship, which also cranks back up to a double round (six games for each of the four participating teams) from 2015’s single one, is then scheduled for August 27 to October 8.
Several Boks from the World Cup squad who took part in Super Rugby earlier this year have taken their final bows from both the southern hemisphere competition and Test rugby, so it matters little from a Bok point of view that men like Victor Matfield (Northampton) and Jean de Villiers (Leicester) – at the very least – are pitched straight into English club duties now, with no post-RWC respite.
But it is well less than ideal, either for their Super Rugby outfits or the Bok set-up in 2016, that others with dual SA/Japan club deals like Damian de Allende (Stormers and Kintetsu Liners), Willie le Roux (Sharks and Canon Eagles), JP Pietersen (Sharks and Pansonic Wild Knights), Schalk Burger (Stormers and Suntory Sungoliath) and Handre Pollard (Bulls and NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) are about to be unleashed on the Top League.
That Japanese competition kicks off in 10 days’ time, so their feet-up time is going to be negligible, and runs to January 24 – little more than a month before the start of Super Rugby.
Overseas players tend to be “rotated” a fair bit in Japan, so that is some comfort, although in terms of proper off-season for such Springboks, it is barely going to exist before the rigours of 2016 in the southern hemisphere kick in; burnout could be a real issue somewhere down the line.
Just for the moment, you have to imagine it is better to be a rands-earning Lood de Jager and company, savouring the delights of a meaningful summer holiday ...
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