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Ken Borland

Lions have to tie down most dangerous beast: written-off Springboks 0

Posted on August 17, 2021 by Ken

The British and Irish Lions will have to tie down that most dangerous of beasts – a written-off Springbok team – in the first Test in Cape Town on Saturday with South Africa’s hooker, Bongi Mbonambi, saying all the talk about the home team being underdone is merely fuelling their fire.

There was more than a hint of colonial patronisation on Tuesday in some of the questions to Mbonambi from the British media, which were along the lines of “you haven’t played proper rugby for so long, while the Lions have been involved in the wonderful Six Nations, how are you going to cope, you poor dears?”

Let’s not forget that the Springboks were also roundly written off before the World Cup final and most of the team that will play in the first Test beat the tourists in the guise of the SA A team last week. Mbonambi’s parting words, to a question from a South African journalist, were defiant.

“There’s been a lot of talk about us being underdone, and that’s just throwing more fuel on the fire,” Mbonambi growled. “The whole team is really looking forward to Saturday and we know we have to step up and show we are here mentally and physically, there is an intensity we have to match. We have the whole week to get ready for that and we will make sure we pitch up on Saturday.

“We are at a bit of a disadvantage, that’s the reality of Covid, but we plan to make a good start, to start with great intent and get ourselves on the front foot. But it’s an 80-minute game and we need to be on that front foot for the whole 80 minutes. We know where our strengths lie and at training the coaches have been really lifting the intensity,” Mbonambi said.

Even if the Springboks are a bit underdone, it is still not going to be a spa day for the Lions. The Boks showed that by overwhelming England’s much-vaunted pack in the World Cup final and the SA A team exposed cracks in the Lions camp for the first time last week when their unrelenting defensive pressure brought mistakes.

“We’ve been trying to make training harder than the game will be because we know there is a certain intensity we have to match. We know we are representing the whole nation and there is a massive step up to be made. We’ve worked hard on the training pitch and the work has been done on analysis as well,” Mbonambi said.

The 30-year-old Mbonambi was one of the players who tested positive for Covid, but he will start on Saturday with the knowledge that he can go all out and empty his tank because there is quality front row cover on the bench in the form of Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.

“Because of the quality of front rows we have available to us, we see the props as pairings. Is it more important to be there at the start and sing the anthems or to be on the field for the final whistle? Who knows, but if you are starting there are certain things you have to do and there’s a specific role for those coming off the bench. The players have bought into this,” coach Jacques Nienaber said.

Erasmus worried about personal welfare of Springboks 0

Posted on September 29, 2020 by Ken

South Africa’s Rugby Championship participation is obviously dependent on government approval, but player welfare is also a major concern for Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and his personal opinion is that the Springboks are going to be underdone in terms of game time.

South Africa’s opening Rugby Championship game is against Argentina on November 7 and they have to arrive in Australia by October 18 in order to quarantine for two weeks, but that means the members of the Springbok squad that are based in South Africa will only have a maximum of 240 minutes under their belts – SuperFan Saturday, this weekend’s Green v Gold match and the opening round of Super Rugby Unlocked.

“We desperately want to play because it would be terrible to have a year with no Test rugby. But we’ve had no clear answer from the English clubs about their semi-finals and final, we have to take a massive squad because you need four players in each key position and we all have to arrive at the same time because of two weeks quarantine, during which we can practise together.

“The science tells us that the players need five or six games, 400-500 minutes, before playing Test rugby is safe because of the injury risk and player welfare. It’s a tough one because we know we have to go, but we just don’t know how it’s going to be possible. And we don’t have much time to sort it out, the decisions all have to be done by October 10. It’s a matter of high performance and player welfare, we want to be competitive but 240 minutes is the most our players will have,” Erasmus said on Monday.

It’s fortunate that the players don’t have to be isolated in their hotel rooms, stuck on their cellular phones and gaming devices, for their two-week isolation, but even playing intra-squad matches between themselves is fraught with risk.

“We’ll be lucky if most of them have more than 200 minutes game time when we arrive in Australia, but we can probably still play against each other, a 46-man squad means we have two teams of 23. So if we play twice then that adds another 160 minutes, takes us to 360, which is nearly there. And there may be more intensity than usual because the guys will be playing for spots. “But then there’s also the risk of more injuries. And it’s not just your 15 players that you are worried about, it could be any of 30 guys on the field at any given time. Plus all 46 of the squad have played less than 200 minutes and have been under strict Lockdown, the toughest in the world. So there are a lot of problems with that as well! But ultimately the decision will be made for us,” Erasmus said.

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