Duane Vermeulen (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Tuesday applauded the work done by the national team’s medical, strength and conditioning staff to get the squad fit and ready for the Rugby World Cup.
Each member of the 31-man squad took part in most of the field sessions on Monday and Tuesday in Durban, including Duane Vermeulen, Jean de Villiers, Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw.
The training camp in Durban concludes on Wednesday and the players and management will get together again in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. The squad departs for England on Friday, September 11.
“We’re confident that all of the players will be fit to be considered for selection for our opening match against Japan in Brighton on 19 September,” said Meyer.
“Hours and hours of very hard work behind the scenes were put in to ensure the players’ general fitness levels improved, while at the same time bringing injured players back into action.
“When we got together for the first time at the end of June, we had a large number of injured players in the squad while I was also not satisfied with our levels of fitness.
“Although we’ve suffered a high number of injuries during the Rugby Championship, the medical staff have worked very hard to bring players injured earlier in the season back to match fitness.
“It was also remarkable to see the brilliant attitude of the players. They really worked incredibly hard in the last two months and I’m very pleased to say that our general fitness levels have improved considerably.”
While players such as De Villiers and Vermeulen started training with the squad, Eben Etzebeth suffered a calf strain at training on Monday, but it will not put his Rugby World Cup participation at risk.
“Eben felt some discomfort in his calf at the end of our training session,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“He was immediately pulled from training and had scans on Tuesday, which revealed a grade 1 strain. He has already started with his rehabilitation and we’re confident that he will be ready for the start of the Rugby World Cup.”
Meyer said that apart from the Springboks’ medical and fitness staff who worked with the players, Craig Roberts (team doctor), Rene Naylor and Vivian Verwant (physiotherapists), Daliah Hurwitz (massage therapist) and Basil Carzis (strength and conditioning coach), the assistance from outside the team management also played a massive role.
This included physiotherapists Tanushree Pillay (Springbok Women’s Sevens) and Hugh Everson (Springbok Sevens), SA Under 20 conditioning coach Warren Adams, and strength and conditioning specialist Niel du Plessis, from Sports Science Lab (SSL).
“Working with an enlarged squad, we were privileged to have help from Tanu, Hugh and Warren in the last few months and I can now understand why they came so highly regarded from our other national teams,” said Meyer.
“This is the kind of cross-pollination that can only benefit South African rugby and we certainly learned from them.
“Niel is very well known in the rugby world and came highly recommended. He worked hard with a lot of our players in Pretoria and Durban, when the rest of the squad travelled to Brisbane and Buenos Aires. He gave up a lot of his time and energy for which we are eternally grateful.”