Tuesday, 21 June 2022 21:46

English Premiership clubs stop players from joining springboks this week.

By Brenden Nel.

The Springboks won’t get any of their players that are playing in the English Premiership back before Sunday, even though the English season has finished this past weekend.

That means the likes of Premiership final man of the match Jasper Wiese, as well as his counterpart last Saturday, prop Vincent Koch, who turned out for Saracens and Harlequins Andre Esterhuizen, whose team bowed out a week earlier, have been prevented from joining the Boks until Regulation 9 of World Rugby kicks in.

The strange refusal of the Premiership clubs forms part of their agreement with the Springboks on players being released, but while French and Japanese clubs who are no longer playing have given their players permission to join the Springboks in their training camp ahead of the Welsh series, the English clubs have refused.

What makes it even stranger is that the Premiership clubs gave English club players permission to play in a Barbarians game against England but the South Africans are not allowed to join the Springboks.

It is unclear if that includes the likes of Lood de Jager and Faf de Klerk, both of whom were with Sale Sharks but are moving on to clubs in Japan in the short term.

The other notable exception is Handre Pollard, whose side Montpellier is playing in the French Top 14 final this weekend.

Coach Jacques Nienaber shrugged on Tuesday, saying he could only comply with World Rugby’s regulations that mean clubs are only bound to release their players for national duty on the Sunday before any given test match.

"Handre is still playing. Their final is only over the weekend. We don’t have any of our Premiership players. They are only being released according to regulation 9 of World Rugby, so they will only join us on Monday,"Nienaber said.

"We are fortunate to get the Japanese-based players - the Japanese rugby union said the players could start working with us a little bit earlier. The national unions sometimes agree with that, and sometimes they stay strictly with Regulation 9, so we have to abide by that.

"We will only get our Premiership players on Monday."

'BRIDGE THE GAP'

Nienaber praised the depth and the involvement of the South Africans in various finals over the weekend, but said the biggest challenge for the Boks now was to get the new players aligned with the way they did things so the team could prepare as a unit going forward.

"It speaks volumes for the depth that we have. If you look at the two guys you mentioned (Roos and Louw) and you look at Deon Fourie, who put in a man of the match performance in the final and then you look at Jasper Wiese, who put in a man of the match performance in the Premiership final.

"That is probably where sometimes we sit and discuss players. We normally get the games about four to six hours after they are played. Our job as coaching staff from the national side, when we are not in camp, is to make sure we are on every single player that we follow. To make sure every game they play we watch - every tackle, every kick.

"I think you can see a feather in the cap for the selectors, I feel the squad they selected are all in form. The challenge for us now as staff is to make sure we align them. They’ve been coached by their franchises for quite some time, and they will have been used to their systems and to align them with us.

"Some of the players who will come in locally or from abroad, some of them have been part of our setup for 50-60 weeks since 2018, almost 40 test matches. Their alignment will probably come a little big quicker due to working with us before and some guys, although they are in form, will come into our environment and are not used to how we do things.

"Our challenge is to make sure we bridge that gap as quickly as possible and both our responsibility as coaches and the players’ responsibility to take ownership of that and see they are aligned as quickly as possible."

The Boks kick off the first of three tests against Wales in Pretoria on 2 July.