It is imperative that the Springboks play in the Rugby Championship, according to Jean de Villiers, though the retired Bok star does have some reservations.
The Boks must still confirm whether they will play in the delayed Championship which starts in Australia on 7 November, with fears persisting they might be undercooked.
“Should the Boks play in the Championship? Yes, definitely,” said De Villiers this week.
“But, it is firstly important that the domestic competition is strong and that we get some kind of Currie Cup going,” he said.
That will now happen after SA Rugby this week announced their plans to get rugby in the country restarted following the suspension of sport due to Covid-19. Next weekend will see the four Super Rugby sides play a match each at Loftus Versfeld, while the following week in Cape Town a festival match between a combined Green and Gold team – which will serve as national trials – will be staged.
And, following that match, a new local domestic competition involving seven teams – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas – will kick off a double round, home and away, fixture list – with the teams playing for the Super Rugby Unlocked trophy, and then for the Currie Cup. The action will start on 10 October and continue to late January.
De Villiers, who played the last of his 109 Tests at the 2015 World Cup and is now the chairman of the Players Fund, stressed that this country’s top players simply had to return to action.
“You want to test yourself against international sides and the Championship will provide that opportunity for the Springboks,” he said.
“The last time the Boks played together was the World Cup final so you don’t want to be out of international rugby for too long,” said De Villiers, who earned 105 Super Rugby caps for the Stormers and also played for Munster and the Leicester Tigers .
There had been suggestions that the Boks might send an experimental side to Australia, but even if that happened De Villiers believed the Boks management would have done their homework.
“Whether the Boks send their strongest side or a development side, there still would be a lot of positives at play and a lot to gain by playing in the Championship.”
The former star Bok centre, however, envisaged it could take some time to get the rhythm and cohesion back after a layoff of six months.
“To have been out for so long, I think regardless of whether you have been out for six or 12 or even 18 months, it does take time for a team to gel again,” he said.
A big factor that would negate the negatives would be the pride for the Bok jersey and what was achieved in Japan last year, while the leadership of coach Jacques Nienaber and National Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, would steer the team in the right direction.
“Hopefully, from an energy point of view, it won’t take too long for them to get their groove back and they can quickly regain the standard they set at the World Cup,” said De Villiers.