The Springboks completed their Castle Lager Rugby Championship training camp on a high note on Thursday with a full day’s work behind them, which paved the way for the players to enjoy a short break with their families before the southern hemisphere series kicks off next week.
The squad wrapped up the week’s on-field preparations with a double training session on Thursday, and coach Jacques Nienaber was content with the work done as they prepare to make the transition into a full Test-match week from Sunday.
The Springboks will face Australia at Loftus Versfeld in their opening game of the shortened Castle Lager Rugby Championship on Saturday, 8 July, which will be followed by a Test against New Zealand at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland a week later (Saturday, 15 July). They will wrap up the competition against Argentina at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday 29 July.
“We’ve had a productive three weeks in Pretoria, and we’re pleased with where the players are, going into the first Test next week,” said Nienaber. “We did a lot of groundwork on and off the field at this camp and the players and coaches are aligned in terms of what we want to see and achieve on the field.
“Jean-Luc du Preez was also cleared to join us from the beginning of this week, which means we had an opportunity to work with all the players at stages during the last three weeks, and that will bode well for us going into the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.”
Nienaber added: “We also have a clear picture now of the players who are fit and those who are on the road to full recovery to participate in the competition in the next few weeks. It was also fantastic that the injured players could work closely with our medical team daily, and it’s pleasing to see them making such good progress.”
Nienaber said the few days off will benefit the players both mentally and physically, and he had no doubt that they would re-assemble on Sunday in match mode.
“These few days will allow them to refresh on both fronts,” said Nienaber. “The base is now in place, and next week we need to be switched on fully from our first meeting and training session for the Australia Test.
“This is going to be a challenging competition with all the teams looking to build momentum before the World Cup, so we have to hit the ground running if we want to be in the running to win the title.”
Nienaber will announce his team to face Australia on Tuesday, 4 July.
The team will play six matches in total before the Rugby World Cup, with the three outside of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship being warm-up games against Argentina in Buenos Aires (5 August), Wales in Cardiff (19 August) and New Zealand in London (25 August).
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.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
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.