The Springbok squad assembled in Pretoria on Wednesday evening to resume their preparations for their final Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Johannesburg on Saturday, 29 July, after a well-deserved two-day rest following their journey back from New Zealand.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has retained the same extended group of players for the camp, including scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, who was given time off following a family bereavement, and prop Gerhard Steenekamp – a member of the New Zealand touring squad – who remains as injury cover for Ox Nche, who is recovering from a pectoral muscle injury.
Lock Eben Etzebeth will join his team-mates on Sunday.“We have a settled squad, and everyone is determined to get back to action and to bounce back following the result against New Zealand,” said Nienaber.
“We are bitterly disappointed about the defeat, but we’ll take the lessons from that match and implement that as we look forward to our final match in the competition,” Nieber shared.
The match at Emirates Airline Park will be the Boks’ final appearance on South African soil in 2023 and after seven successive home sell-outs since the start of the 2022 season, Nienaber said the team was excited to mark their farewell test in front of their passionate home crowd.
“Playing such a vital match in front of our supporters is always special. “This match may not only be the decider of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, but it’s also the last match we play at home before the World Cup. “That passionate support almost serves as an extra player for us, so we’d like to appeal to SA’s rugby faithful to come out in their green and gold and make this a memorable send-off for us,” said Nienaber.
Nienaber said that managing player load in the run-up to the departure for France remained a key focus: “One of the boxes we ticked in the last two weeks was to work on our player load. Getting that balance right is going to be vital so that we can peak at the right time this season. We have a sizeable squad, and we need to ensure that we give as many players as possible the chance to stake a claim for places in the World Cup squad, while at the same time getting the desired results so that we can build momentum going into the World Cup.”
Nienaber added: “We have four matches left before the international showpiece and we are still in the race for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title so we intend getting down to business immediately and making the most of the time we have on and off the training field to get the squad where we would like them to be mentally and physically.”