Schalk Burger was usually at the vanguard when it came to setting a high intensity for the Springboks, but the legendary loose forward does not see that same intensity yet in the current crop of players as they return from lockdown, which is why he does not believe the national team are ready to compete in the Rugby Championship.
The South Africa-based players have only had a maximum of three games each – the SuperFan Saturday warm-up, the dour Springbok Showdown and just the opening round of Super Rugby Unlocked. But a decision is due to be made on Friday as to whether they travel to Australia for the Rugby Championship, which is due to start on November 7, with the Springboks taking on Argentina in Brisbane.
“At the moment the Boks are not ready. I just haven’t seen the intensity to match the intensity we saw in the All Blacks/Australia game on the weekend,” said Burger in a Laureus Sport For Good Foundation webinar on Wednesday night.
“For us to perform away from home, I think the guys are a few games short. Rassie Erasmus said he wanted them to have six games before playing Test rugby, but if it is true that the November 7 match has already been postponed then they will have more time.
“But we have magnificent players and we play differently to the All Blacks and Wallabies, especially in the way we defend. It was so easy for Australia to get width with just one or two passes, but we rush up and make that so difficult. And we pride ourselves on our scrums and lineouts, so we would have put Australia under so much more pressure.”
Burger also added that he was concerned about the injury suffered on a French field by Handre Pollard and the lack of certainty over who will back up Elton Jantjies at flyhalf, as well as the injuries at lock.
“Lock and flyhalf are real concerns. Lood de Jager, Handre Pollard and RG Snyman have all suffered major injuries and they are nine-to-10-month injuries, so one wonders if they will be ready for the British Lions tour next year, which is a red-letter event for South Africa. I’m waiting for a few young locks to really stand up, there’s massive scope for that now.
“At flyhalf, Elton is the most natural choice to take over from Handre, but we need someone else too. The question is whether that is Damian Willemse or Curwin Bosch. Kicking for poles will be very important and that’s probably Damian’s most inconsistent area. Or do they use Frans Steyn as cover for flyhalf? That’s all got to unfold over the next year and there are still lots of questions to be answered,” Burger said.
“But the biggest worry is that the guys have not played much rugby. Their intensity is not sharp enough and it looks like they are having difficulty handling the fact that there are no crowds and they need to adapt to that.”
- SA Rugby said in a short press release on Thursday that they had noted speculation in the media that the Boks were to be withdrawn from the Rugby Championship. They added they would make no comment until Sanzaar had updated all stakeholders through official channels, which was expected to be on Friday.