Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has cast his net wide with an eye on Rugby World Cup selection saying while they are currently tracking a group of about 60 players, the door is open to anyone who proves they deserve to be in the squad to knock down the selection door.
A group of 14 players assembled in Cape Town on Sunday for a three-week physical and rugby development camp following a break from the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. They have been participating in a series of gym and field training sessions as well as alignment meetings with the Springbok coaches and management team.
The camp will run until Friday 10 March, after which the players will return to their franchises for the closing stages of the Vodacom URC and EPCR competitions.
Nienaber explained the importance of the camp and the make-up of the group saying that most of the players had very little rest in the last two seasons as SA’s franchises breached the divide between the southern and northern hemisphere.
“Most of the players participating in this camp have not had a break since the British& Irish Lions Series due to the combined northern and southern hemisphere seasons,” said Nienaber.
“That sums up the importance of this block for us. It was also fantastic that we were able to plan this break during the Six Nations competition as the other franchises will also be without their top players.”
Nienaber added: “The biggest mistake one can make though is to assume that these players will be in the Rugby World Cup squad. We are currently tracking around 60 players, but at the same time the door is open for any player to throw their name into the mix.
“We used close to 50 players in the last two years since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom were in our bubble, but that said, form does influence selection and the door is always open for someone who is not necessarily in the mix to prove that he deserves a place in the squad, as Herschel Jantjies did in 2019.”
Andy Edwards, Head of Athletic Performance, was delighted to kick off what marks an important year for the Boks with the Rugby World Cup kicking off in September, saying the break and this development block was crucial for the players from a physical and rugby perspective.
“We have players playing all around the world, so it was important for us to enter this year in a sensible way,” said Edwards.
“Most of these players have been on a long stretch following the shift into the northern hemisphere, and while there are many positives to playing in the north, it created challenges for us from a rest and development window perspective.
“With a break in the URC, we tried not to disrupt the teams too much, and to factor the rest in at a time when the other teams were also without their internationals due to the Six Nations. And it is exciting to start the year with this block going into the Rugby World Cup later this season.”
Commenting on the differences tracked from the 2019 World Cup to this year, Edwards said: “We measured a few things from the last World Cup to now and there are things that have stood out, such as the way the season has evolved and demands on the players.”
The Springboks will kick off a bumper 2023 season against Australia in Pretoria on Saturday, 8 July, in the opening round of the shortened Castle Lager Rugby Championship, which will be followed by clashes against New Zealand at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland a week later, and Argentina in Johannesburg on Saturday, 29 July, in their final match on home soil before the build-up to their Rugby World Cup defence starts.
They will then travel to Buenos Aires in August to take on the Pumas before facing Wales and the All Blacks in Rugby World Cup warm-up matches in Cardiff and London in the final build-up to the extravaganza in France.
South Africa will kick off their Rugby World Cup title defence on Sunday, 10 September, against Scotland in Marseille, which will be followed by pool matches against Romania in Bordeaux (17 September), Ireland in Paris (23 September) and Tonga in Marseille (1 October).
The Rugby World Cup quarter-finals will be played on the weekend of 14/15 October, with the semi-finals on 20/21 October and the final on Saturday, 28 October.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.