much-needed rest

A CONGESTED rugby calendar has forced the South African Rugby Union to take the proactive route of resting some of their leading players in the build-up to next year's World Cup in New Zealand.

This year alone there is the Tri-Nations, which gets under way on Saturday against the All Blacks in Auckland, a full Currie Cup season that lasts 16 weeks and then a five-match tour of the UK in November and December for the Springbok side.

To have any chance at the World Cup, Saru has decided that 20 leading Springboks will undertake a conditioning programme following the Tri-Nations and make the players only available for the Currie Cup at the semifinal stage in mid-October.

"We undertook a similar programme in 2006 and are satisfied with the results and have again had buy-in from the provincial unions and our competition sponsors, Absa," said Andy Marinos, manager of National Teams.

"The players will appear in the knockout stages of the Currie Cup - something that didn't happen in 2006.

"That was a strategic decision to give players some game time before the end-of-season tour, which will be approaching as if it was a World Cup campaign."

With the Super 14 now being expanded to the Super 15 with the inclusion of the Melbourne Rebels from Australia, it means next year's tournament will only end in mid-August.

This highlights the need to manage players better and give them sufficient time to recover from injuries.

At the moment the Springoks have a number of players on the sideline with long-term injuries. They include scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, Bismarck du Plessis and Heinrich Brussouw.

The contracted Springboks will attend a series of private mini camps to focus on different aspects of their physical conditioning.

The contracted Springboks include Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana, Tendai Mtawarira and Victor Matfield.