Bafana gets the SA Rugby Academy programme going again

Bafana gets the SA Rugby Academy programme going again

Of course the Covid-19 pandemic hampered junior rugby. It no doubt shattered some dreams and hopes of many aspirants for higher honours. And it must be taken for granted that some players, with dreams to impress during the junior National Weeks and also the national age group champions, were not granted that opportunity.

But such is the meticulous nature of the development planning, from the Under 13 Craven Week through to the Under 20 Junior Springboks, that the selectors/coaches at each stage is fully aware of an identified new nucleus when their group leaves for an older bracket under a new coach.

It is with this structure in place that the Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko again invited an updated group of nearly 30 players for the SA Academy who returned to the training field in Stellenbosch for the first time in more than a year.

The SA Rugby Academy programme aims to balance formal education with high performance training and player welfare. The programme is supported by corporates through the Rugby Educational Foundation (REF) and Academy sponsors, Remgro (through the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport) and SuperSport, was launched in 2017 and the 2021 programme will run until 30 June.

▲The group gathered at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Wednesday, while another eight squad members set to join next week, reports SA Rugby Communications.

The Academy kicked off on Thursday with strength and fitness testing, and the players had their first light field training session on Friday, with the aim of phasing them back into full contact rugby over the course of the programme.

Four players – DHL Western Province flyhalf Kade Wolhuter and the Vodacom Bulls’ Jan-Hendrik Wessels (prop), Canan Moodie (centre) and Reinhardt Ludwig (lock) – are currently training with their respective senior provincial squads and will join the Academy at a later stage.

Corne Weilbach (DHL WP prop) and Keanan Galant (Vodacom Bulls fullback), meanwhile, were forced to withdraw due to back and knee injuries respectively.

These developments resulted in four additional players being invited to train with the squad. They are Nolan Pienaar (Vodacom Bulls prop), Lamla Nunu (DHL WP prop), Corne Rahl (Cell C Sharks lock) and Jordan Hendrikse (Xerox Lions flyhalf).

“We are very excited,” said Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko.

“We followed all the COVID-19 protocols to make sure we are in line with the regulations, both from a government and SA Rugby perspective, and the attitude and excitement from the boys has been fantastic.

“I asked a few players when last they played, and one of them said March 2019 and another August 2019, so one can imagine their excitement to be back on the field and to be part of this system, so we are looking forward to it.”

Nhleko said the players would be phased into full contact training as the camp progresses in line with SA Rugby’s return-to-play guidelines for age-group rugby.

“We are lucky that most of the players have been with their unions doing non-contact training, but part of our process in the next three days and next week as well, is to make sure we focus on the non-contact part of things and to provide clarity on our detail,” said Nhleko.

“We will also assess where they are from a physical conditioning point of view and determine their skill levels. We will then slowly reintegrate with some body work with assistance from the strength and conditioning staff, and perhaps some tackle bag work later on before we advance to full contact.”

Updated SA Rugby Academy squad:

Props: Blaine Golden (Cell C Sharks), Okuhle Siyeni (Xerox Lions), Tielman Nieuwoudt (Vodacom Bulls), Lamla Nunu (DHL Western Province), Nolan Pienaar (Vodacom Bulls), Sibusiso Shongwe (Xerox Lions), Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Vodacom Bulls).

Hookers: Jacques Goosen (Cell C Sharks), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Western Province), Lukhanyo Vokozela (DHL Western Province).

Locks: Connor Evans, Dylan de Leeuw (both DHL Western Province), Reinhardt Ludwig (Vodacom Bulls), Simon Miller (DHL Western Province), Corne Rahl (Cell C Sharks).

Loose forwards: George Cronje (Toyota Cheetahs), Wandile Hlophe (Xerox Lions), Keketso Morabe (DHL Western Province), Rynard Mouton (Vodacom Bulls), Siyemukela Ndlovu (Xerox Lions), Siyambuka Ningiza (Cell C Sharks), Jarrod Taylor (DHL Western Province), Sisonke Vumazonke (Xerox Lions).

Scrumhalves: Bobby Alexander (DHL Western Province), Bradley Davids (Cell C Sharks), Nico Steyn (Xerox Lions).

Flyhlaves: Jordan Hendrikse (Xerox Lions), Sacha Mngomezulu (DHL Western Province), Brandon Wilkie (Cell C Sharks), Kade Wolhuter (DHL Western Province).

Centres: Carlton Bannies (Vodacom Bulls), Tyler Bocks (Xerox Lions), Mnqobi Mkhize (Cell C Sharks), Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls), Zeilinga Strydom, Henco van Wyk (both Xerox Lions).

Outside backs: Dalvon Blood (SA Rugby contracted/DHL Western Province), Geraldo Flusk (Vodacom Bulls), Curwin Gertse (Cell C Sharks), Matthew Jacobs (Cell C Sharks), Duran Koevort (DHL Western Province), Mtungwa Mapantsela (Cell C Sharks), Keanan Wentzel (Vodacom Bulls).