Following another round of fitness tests in Bloemfontein on Monday, it seems the Springboks conditioning is lagging behind the rest of the world.
It is a situation that simply cannot continue if the Boks hope to really challenge for the World Cup next year.
Springbok head of conditioning, Dr Derick Coetzee, feels that the squad has now fallen behind the rest of the top-tier nations with regard to conditioning, in the wake of the intensive fitness tests done on the players on Monday.
“We are well behind the top-playing nations such as New Zealand, Australia and England… we simply do not have the same luxury as they do with regard to resting players,” Coetzee told Sapa.
“Most importantly the strength and speed components are not up to scratch and from the test results they did not increase at all in those regards.”
Dr Coetzee blamed the Super 14 and the stress the extended matches has put on the players as the main reason for the negative showing of the fitness reports.
These fitness reports don’t indicate that the players are unfit in the colloquial term but rather that their bodies have just not had the time to recover from the natural erosion of first class rugby these days.
The Springbok’s schedule next year is so ludicrious it would be hilarious were it not for the serious nature of the task at hand. The week after the Super 14 final 2007 the Boks face England, then they clash with them again the following week, followed again seven days later with a match against the hard Samoans, and then a week later they take on New Zealand and then Australia. Then comes the World Cup in September.
This is an almost impossible task for Jake White and company to overcome and unless a core of players are rested, not just at Currie Cup and Super 14 level but also at national level, then the Boks in France at the World Cup may be made up out of youngsters, totally fresh-faced in the nitty-gritty of Test rugby.
Based on these fitness tests and the ones held last week, if this situation is carried over to next year then the crisis in South African rugby will not only be huge, it will be insurmountable.
The two team’s that contested the 2003 World Cup final in Australia, England and the Wallabies, also had the most Test caps of any nation at the tournament, a glowing testament of the need for experience and continuity to take the global showpiece.
“There is just not enough time given to the players, time must be given,” said Dr Coetzee, almost pleading with the powers-that-be. The hierarchy look to have given White the green light to handle the players better, now they must live up to that.