South Africa haven't played a game since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final

First Springboks camp in over 500 days a ‘reality check’ ahead of Lions tour

South Africa’s head coach Jacques Nienaber has said the team’s first camp in over 500 days has been a ‘reality check’ for all involved.

The Springboks haven’t played a match since they defeated England 32-12 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final due to Covid-19 restrictions. Despite the lack of games, the team are now preparing for this summer’s tour against the British & Irish Lions.

Nienaber said: “Just meeting face-to-face was absolutely great, because I haven’t seen some of the players since the Rugby World Cup victory tour parade in November 2019.

“It was reality check for us in terms of where we were in 2019 and where we are currently in 2021. And where we have to turn our focus towards and improve during our preparations.”


Kitshoff has said he is ‘excited’ about the future (Getty Images)

What matches will the Springboks play this year?

As well as the Lions tour, South Africa will also have a tour in Europe towards the end of the year. While all the details of their international matches haven’t been specified, the head coach added they made it as clear as possible for the players.

“I would say the big part of these assemblies was the reality check exercise, to see where we are as a team, not just the players, but also the whole management – with that steering our focus to the areas we have to improve,” Nienaber added.

“And another major objective was for the players to have a clear understanding of exactly what is required of them to be considered for Springbok selection.”

The camp consisted of players based in South Africa but overseas stars will join them online in coming weeks. Internationals who play their rugby in Japan will link up with Nienaber and other coaches on Thursday. While players based in England and France will dial in next week.

But being back in camp has been ‘exciting’ for players as they now have games in the schedule.

Prop Steven Kitshoff said: “I think there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of doubt about where rugby was going in the future. But being in camp, wearing the green and gold colours and actually having a schedule to look forward to is so exciting.

“I think the whole group is so excited about the opportunity and the days that lie ahead.”

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