Sun, 21 Jul 2019

Rassie's four-week Bok cocoon bonus

News24
23 Jun 2019, 04:10 GMT+10

Cape Town - All currently fit Springbok players are "safe" for a few weeks now.

Only freak accidents like an individual's domestic tumble from a ladder or a large jar of pickles crashing onto a big toe from the top shelf of the fridge can put a spanner into the Test season preparatory works.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus will have been the first to see a silver lining to the cloud of South Africa's complete, early elimination from the Super Rugby 2019 knockout phase on Saturday.

The respective quarter-final defeats abroad of the Bulls and Sharks, while a blow to the country's general rugby ego, do mean that all Bok candidates for the looming Rugby Championship - whether home or overseas-based - have no competitive action now for four weeks leading up to the opening fixture of the abbreviated competition against Australia at Ellis Park on July 20.

That puts Erasmus at an automatic advantage over his New Zealand, Australia and Argentina counterparts, who must still look on nervously for a week or two more as some of their Test personnel slug it out further: Saturday's semi-finals see

the Crusaders entertaining the Hurricanes in what could be a brutal derby, and the Brumbies making the gruelling trek through time zones to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares.

But over the next two weekends, the Bok mastermind knows that the risk of injury in competition to any of his players - major European club seasons have ended, too - has been eliminated.

So there is really a month for him to both freshen up and then gradually prepare his men for the challenge of the Wallabies in this year's abbreviated Championship: the period should allow for some useful conditioning for key players, without the risk of often contact-related mishaps in the heat of battle.

Erasmus will already have a pretty good idea of which Test players presently in rehab from injuries will be ready for duty in the Johannesburg date - or not much beyond it - and should not have to cope with any inconvenient additions to the list of absentees now.

There was at least one possible late blow to his plans in Saturday's Super Rugby last-eight action, given that powerful Sharks No 8 Dan du Preez had to leave the Canberra pitch early against the Brumbies nursing a rib problem.

Du Preez is a useful, relatively like-for-like understudy to runaway top choice Duane Vermeulen, who also suffered a knock or two for the Bulls against the Hurricanes in Wellington - remember that another Test-quality eighth-man, Lions captain Warren Whiteley, has had a horribly disrupted season and is having treatment for kidney stones.

On the plus side, though, Bok outside centre Jesse Kriel, who had been side-lined since April following ankle surgery, made a successful comeback in the Bulls' gutsy 35-28 reverse on Saturday, making a brilliant break and well-timed off-load for a sparkling try by fullback Warrick Gelant.

If anything, Kriel will rue the few weeks of inactivity now as he seeks to regain maximum sharpness, but several other Bok stalwarts in the Loftus-based ranks, like overplayed flyhalf Handre Pollard, badly need some rest time ... and will now get it.

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