Johannesburg - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers spoke about Monday afternoon’s start to the national training camp in Stellenbosch as the beginning of the build-up to next year’s World Cup, and if that was so, where it all began should end up being like chalk and cheese to where it will surely end.
The supersport.com website reports, Twickenham next November is what the Boks are aiming for, and it will doubtless be chilly and probably a little gloomy, as it so often is in London at that time of year. On Monday though a burning sun beat down as the Cape spring continues to play more like a summer, with sweltering conditions adding to the discomfort levels even after 17:00 as the players ended their session with a grueling crawling drill directed by conditioning coach Basil Carzis.
Conditioning has been a big focus for the Boks this year, and according to De Villiers, this camp is the first time that the Boks are being able to get some conditioning in at this stage of the season. Normally the Boks are involved in the Currie Cup now, but this time they’ve had two weeks break since the end of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, and he reckons the time away has been enough to refresh the bodies and minds and prepare the players for what they went through on Monday.
“I knew what was coming today, but I do feel refreshed and the break was good. You might say it isn’t a long time, but at this stage of the year two weeks off is perfect and it does make a difference,” said De Villiers.
The camp will continue through until Friday, but the first day was devoted to working on aspects of their attacking game, with conditioning incorporated around that. De Villiers said that the win last time out against the All Blacks had contributed to the positive atmosphere among the players as they regathered, but that no-one was under any illusions that the performance against the Kiwis was perfect.
“We had a bit of a review of our attack, which was the main focus of today’s session, along with some conditioning. There were a lot of positives and we won the game, but still, we made a lot of mistakes at Ellis Park. We are trying to improve every single time we play, and just because we beat the All Blacks doesn’t mean that it was the perfect game – it was from it. We still have to improve a hell of a lot to be successful on the end of year tour.”
The Boks leave the country on 1 November and open the tour against Ireland in Dublin on 8 November, a week before the big match of the tour against England at Twickenham. As England are the hosts of the World Cup and are considered among the favourites, the Boks are placing a high premium on winning that game.
They then play Italy before proceeding into an under-strength clash with Wales in Cardiff. The Boks will be without overseas based players for the game as the fixture falls outside of the international window stipulated by the IRB, but it should nonetheless be an important match for the Boks as it will test the depth in the same way that the big win over Scotland in Port Elizabeth in June with an under-strength team did.
“We aim to win every game, and we have enjoyed successful tours to the northern hemisphere over the past few years. The third year of the four year World Cup cycle is normally the toughest, and the statistics say that we have done a lot better than we did at similar stages to previous build-ups in 2006 and 2010. However a lot hinges on us doing well on this tour.
“The reality is that we have only about eight matches left before the World Cup, and that’s not a lot. So whatever you want to work on and combinations you want to try, you want to be able to do that now and not go into the World Cup doing that.”
Most of the contracted players trained at the Markotter Field at Paul Roos, with the bystanders being players such as Flip van der Merwe and Siya Kolisi, who both have relatively long term injuries. Coenie Oosthuizen and JJ Engelbrecht are two players who haven’t played for the Boks in a while who nonetheless looked eager as they joined the other players in going through their paces.