Johannesburg — Returning to this Springboks side, it seems, is much like cuddling up on your couch; a warm security blanket tucked in around you; a mug of hot chocolate steaming in hand; while watching a YouTube video on 10 Greatest Tries by South Africa at a World Cup.
It feels like home.
That was certainly the sense the media scrum would have pondered for the briefest of moments on Thursday in Pretoria when hooker Malcolm Marx and prop Trevor Nyakane expressed their delight regarding being back in the country and within Jacques Nienaber’s Bok setup.
“It is unbelievable,” said Marx, now back from Japan where he was playing for Kubota Spears.
“It has always been special to be in the Springbok environment and seeing all of the guys that are playing in different tournaments in different areas of the world. It is great to be back at training and, ja, it has been a good three weeks ...
“I haven’t enjoyed the fitness and running as much,” Marx added, “but it has been good to be back on the field, be back in this environment.”
It was a sentiment shared by Racing 92-based Nyakane, who said unabashedly: “It is amazing for us.”
Up until this week, the Boks have been quietly operating in the background due to the involvement of the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers in United Rugby Championship play-offs, with a limited number of players building a foundation for the upcoming three Test match Wales Inbound Tour.
During that period, those players have made Loftus Versfeld their base of operation, but with the URC now done and dusted, the majority of the squad will now begin preparations in earnest. And both Marx and Nyakane are expecting a stern examination from a depleted and injury-hit Welsh side next week Saturday in the first Test at Loftus.
Said Marx: “It is going to be very challenging but obviously play rugby to be the best by playing against the best.
“It is going to be a great challenge and I am looking forward to the next three weeks. Whether I am prepping or getting the team prepped, I want to be contributing to the best of my ability.
“Wales has always been a tough team to play against … We can’t really pinpoint what the challenges will be (right now). We have to do some video work next week and try and prep ourselves to the best of our abilities for the threats that they do bring.”
Nyakane, meanwhile, revealed a belief that simply bludgeoning the Welsh, would arguably not be the most effective manner in defeating the tourists.
“They are coming with a lot of experience,” said the 32-year-old.
“Wales is one of the sides from the Northern Hemisphere that never lets go. Some teams you can beat into a submission, but Wales are one of those that will keep coming until the whistle blows.
“We know there is going to be a lot of physicality, there is going to be a lot of experience and guys trying to impose themselves in the game. They have good captaincy as well.”
Loftus, Free State Stadium and Cape Town Stadium, meanwhile, will be allowed to host full capacity crowds after the Covid-19 restriction regarding public attendance was revoked by the Government this week. As such, Nyakane implored supporters to take advantage of their restored freedoms and make their way to the Test matches.
“We really missed the fans as the Springboks …
“I don’t think people understand how much having a crowd means to us. We went through the British and Irish Lions without the crowds — it was still a good tour but we really missed the fans out there.
“I would like to urge everyone, if you can, come out, purchase your ticket, come and support us as you always do and I promise you, the Springboks will do what they do best.”