Jake White believes South African rugby will continue to be plagued by injury unless the conditioning of players improves.
“If you have gone from a successful U19 side, to a successful U21 side, to a Super 14 franchise and then onto the national side in four years… well then the law of averages tells me that you are not going to be able to cope for a long time,” said White.
With the shock loss of Schalk Burger following the injury to Jean de Villiers, there are once again questions surrounding the conditioning of the players and their susceptibility to injury.
“There is no doubt that we always produce juniors because we have great schools and great rugby institutions,” said White. “We have the history and the finance and the stadiums … we will always have it, but now we have to look at developing a system in which we can keep these players together for a longer time.”
Andy Marinos, SA Rugby’s manager of national teams, agreed with the coach, saying that it has a lot to do with a lack of time devoted to physical development at a young age.
“If the players have sufficient muscular development, then injuries aren’t going to be as chronic. As soon as we can get ourselves within a system where we are controlling our assets at the top level it’s going to be better for SA rugby,” Marinos said.
“If we are going to start somewhere, we should start at school level, but we also need to work with the current crop that we have now. We’ve made huge strides this year with our periodization plan which involves preparing for the end of season tour. We have set aside a 6-8 week block in terms of physical development. But to get a system working you have to start at the school level.”
White dismissed suggestions that the injuries suffered by his players are due to a surplus of games in a rugby season.
“In talking about my group of players specifically, they have gone from juniors through to seniors without having the opportunity to develop physically. It’s got nothing to do with the fact there are too many games in a season. If your body is ready to play 50 games in a season, you can play that many in a season. We need to look at how we are going to manage these young players going forward.”
By Jon Cardinelli