THE Springboks are not looking for scapegoats when it comes to player fatigue even though coach Heyneke Meyer conceded that after last Saturday’s win against Wales that the team looked “tired”.
The Boks scraped home 31-30 against the Welsh in Nelspruit with a strangely lethargic performance, which prompted concern from Meyer.
“I am worried about the state of the players because at this time of year I’ve never seen players so tired and overplayed,” he said after the game. “It’s not an excuse but the great thing now is that some players are now available and they can have a break.
“We’ll have new, fresh faces in the team and that should provide some new energy.”
Team doctor Craig Roberts said the situation where players had heavy workloads with their franchises before joining the Boks was not ideal, but also unavoidable. “There’s no doubt the guys have played a lot of rugby. Super Rugby is high intensity rugby, playing every week. It’s almost like Test match rugby.
“We always knew that would be the case. The schedule is what it is. We try to manage the players as best as we can.
“It’s not only about playing on the weekend, but also trying to manage their training load. If we can modify the training load and try get that load down a bit, it would be great. But it is what it is, we have to adapt.”
Roberts said that it would not be fair to place blame on the players’ clubs or provinces.
“It’s always difficult and it’s an ongoing issue with club versus country…. I think all the franchises are very good at that.
“In the end they are also out there trying to win every game and have their strongest team, so it’s a tricky situation to try to balance,” he said.
Seven overseas-based players were released back to their clubs at the weekend, meaning several players who have played very little rugby over the past month will add new vibrancy to the squad.
Veteran prop Jannie du Plessis admitted that the schedule was tough but that it was a situation to which players had to adapt.
“We come from different Super Rugby campaigns and I can only speak from a Sharks perspective,” Du Plessis said. “We played eight matches on the trot, of which four were overseas and now four Tests on the trot. It’s not like the intensity decreases — it’s the opposite every week.
“You do the maths — to play matches in 12 consecutive weekends against the best teams in the world is tough. We’ve been through it in the past and have managed it.
“Whether we looked tired or not against Wales, I’m not sure, I’ll have to go and have a look at the video. The fact of the matter is that we created scoring chances and didn’t always take them.
“A week earlier we scored tries and created pressure and the following week we didn’t. Instead of being 10 points ahead we were 10 points behind and maybe because we had to chase the game it gives the appearance of us being more tired,” Du Plessis said.
“Physically though, it is tough to play so much intense rugby week after week. But the challenge remains. We have to somehow keep up the pace because it’s not like the intensity will let up over the next few months. We’ll have to deal with it.”