Johannesburg - “Priceless!” That is the word Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber used when asked about the significance of Saturday’s all-South African United Rugby Championship final, even if it means he is not going to have a great deal of time with a full squad to prepare for the first Test against Wales on July 2 in Pretoria.
While Nienaber awaits a host of Stormers and Bulls players, he says he has had to be inventive in the ongoing Bok preparation camp and has had to use some Pretoria club players for the opposition because even the Bulls Currie Cup team is busy preparing for a semi-final.
When asked if he would prefer to have a full squad currently training, he said: “I would rather have it this way. The big game experience the players are getting by being in the URC semi-finals and now a final is priceless. You cannot buy the experience and development these guys will be getting.
“In fact, it is an easy one... I would rather have my players in three weeks of major competition than in three weeks in training,” the coach continued. “It is outstanding what our franchises have achieved and the long-term benefit of their achievements is invaluable.”
Nienaber used Tuesday’s online media briefing to clear up the uncertainty over some big names in Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn, Johan Goosen, and Cobus Reinach.
Vermeulen was the shock omission from Saturday’s 43-man squad announcement, but Nienaber says the veteran No 8 is not axed.
“Duane is undergoing a (minor) operation on his knee and his club (Ulster) has given him permission to do his rehab in South Africa, and when he is fit he will slot in again,” Nienaber said.
“It is the same with Cobus, who has also got permission from his club (Montpellier) to recover in SA. The situation with Frans Steyn is that he has a hammy injury and we have a good conversation with him about his return.
“We told Frans to take his time and get 100 percent ready and then he will join us later in the year.
“Johan Goosen suffered a serious injury a while back and we have a long-term plan to have him cover flyhalf. But he has not been with us before so with our camp being in Pretoria we thought it was a great opportunity to pull in him so he can see how we operate.
“That is the thinking with Johan being with us for three weeks and when we move on for Test matches in Bloemfontein and Cape Town, he will continue his rehab with the Bulls. If all goes well, Johan could join us on the end-of-the-year tour.
Interestingly, Nienaber said that Bulls wing Madosh Tambwe and Lions brother Vincent and Emmanual Tshituka are all ineligible for the Boks because they do not have South African citizenship.
All three were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and until their applications for South African passports are successful, Ninebaer can't pick them.