WATCH: Rassie Erasmus says ‘best possible team’ for Georgia Tests as Springboks go into Covid-19 bubble
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CAPE TOWN - The Springboks will go into the “hard bubble” for the upcoming Tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions, and will have their overseas players available for selection.
That was the word from SA Rugby’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber on Friday following the latest national team alignment camp in Johannesburg this week.
Erasmus confirmed that the two Tests against Georgia will be played on Friday nights, on July 2 and 9 respectively, in order to avoid clashing with the Lions’ tour matches against the local Lions at Ellis Park (July 3) and the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (July 10).
SA Rugby will announce the venues for the Georgia Tests in due course, but the Springboks will come together for a training camp in Bloemfontein before the first Test, with the 45-man squad to be named next Saturday, June 5.
The first Lions Test takes place on July 24 at Cape Town Stadium, followed by the last two games at FNB Stadium the following two weeks.
“Some of the guys are already here – the Japanese players were already in camp with us this week. There are one or two injured players who are already with us, and as the teams fall out of their different leagues – in the Premiership, Top 14 and PRO14, they will be joining us,” Erasmus said during an online press conference on Friday.
“So, we will probably from the beginning try and pick our best possible teams, which we think will play against the British and Irish Lions, and who we have been following for the last couple of months or last year – and he’s already available because he is out of his competition – then certainly we will consider the best possible guys for those first two Test matches.”
One of the new faces could be England-based Leicester Tigers No 8 Jasper Wiese, who Erasmus said has been “playing really well”, but generally, the big guns that won the 2019 Rugby World Cup will front up against Georgia to get ready for the Lions Tests.
Erasmus mentioned that Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt have won the European Champions Cup with Toulouse, that Damian de Allende had performed well for Munster, and that “a lot of our guys did well in Japan” – with fullback Willie le Roux having been included in the Team of the Season.
“With our local boys, there are certainly a few young guys who put up their hands. So, the squad we will be announcing next week will be a squad of 45, and Covid might change it as then we will be in a hard bubble – a rock-hard bubble, with hard entry and exit systems,” Erasmus said.
“Sometimes it’s tough to manage how big that squad should be, but we are going to announce the SA A side and the Springbok side as one squad of 45 next week Saturday.
“There is wonderful talent, and because we’ve got a lot of players overseas, and we have the local boys playing trials every weekend, we saw a lot of youngsters coming through – and the old dogs on the other side are doing pretty well there as well. So, I think it’s looking pretty okay.”
Nienaber said that injured locks Lood de Jager and RG Snyman were still “touch and go”, but that there rest of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad were in the running for selection, bar the retired Tendai Mtawarira, Francois Louw and Schalk Brits.
Erasmus added that the Bok players and entire management group will or have already received Covid-19 vaccines before they enter the bio-bubble.
“The Lions squad have been vaccinated. We want to protect them and ourselves, and I’m not sure if players have to be vaccinated, but we are trying to vaccinate everybody before we get into that hard bubble.”