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Why SA players will probably require a seven-week build up period before seeing combat

Former Springbok conditioning coach professor Derik Coetzee.
Former Springbok conditioning coach professor Derik Coetzee.
Image: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images/Getty Images

There is a reason professional rugby players have extended pre-season training routines before they go into combat.

That much is clear given the high attrition rate in New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa with all five franchises afflicted by crippling injuries‚ some hit harder than others.

Their orthopaedic upheaval has been monitored with more than a passing interest by the Springbok brains trust who are hoping to get their players properly up to speed should they get the green light to play in the Rugby Championship‚ which is tentatively scheduled to start in October. Although they are champing at the bit to get back to full training‚ lockdown restrictions have kept them well separated.

While the Kiwis had a five-week return-to-play protocol before their players were unleashed on each other‚ South Africa’s players will probably require a seven-week build up period before seeing combat.

It is hoped they will get to play in the eight-team Currie Cup with Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber already intimating the players will need nothing short of six matches to get up to speed.

Even if they get that under the belt‚ the condensed six-week Rugby Championship will be taxing on the body. The Boks will probably have to take an enlarged group of players should they make it to New Zealand later this year in a bid to lessen the individual workload‚ as well as other logistical considerations like avoiding quarantine should the playing squad need replenishing.

But playing highly demanding back-to-back fixtures on consecutive weekends is likely to take a physical and psychological toll.

“The most number of injuries occur when you have two or three really high intensity matches‚” warned former Springbok conditioning coach professor Derik Coetzee in a recent interview with this writer.

“This is why your recovery period is critically important. The challenge is now to avoid doing too much as it can increase your risk of injury. Your management of the players’ workload will have to be managed superbly.

"There is a fine balance that needs to be achieved between their practice load and their match load‚” said Coetzee who is now the head of department at the faculty of health sciences at the University of the Free State.

Of course the first hurdle the players have to negotiate is getting ready for the Currie Cup which it is hoped will start in the last week of August‚ or first week in September.

They got the green light to resume non contact training on July 20 but any meaningful preparation will only start once they are allowed to run into each other.

Meanwhile‚ the clock is ticking.