The players who attended the camp were put through their paces in a handful of training and gym sessions and had the opportunity to refamiliarise themselves with the national systems after completing the Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign last month.
SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, and the Springbok and SA ‘A’ head coaches, Jacques Nienaber and Mzwandile Stick, will announce the travelling squads on Friday, and there was a buzz in the camp about the respective tours.
The Boks will play four consecutive Tests against Ireland in Dublin on 5 November, France in Marseille on 12 November, Italy in Genoa on 19 November, and England in London on 26 November on the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.
The SA ‘A’ team, meanwhile, will face Munster on Thursday, 10 November, and the Bristol Bears a week later on 17 November.
“It was a fantastic camp, and it offered the coaches an ideal opportunity to get the players to switch their focus to the Ireland Test next week and the forthcoming SA ‘A’ matches,” said Erasmus.
“It was also valuable in the sense that it exposed new players such as Manie (Libbok) and Sacha (Mngomezulu) to our structures and to see them in action as we finalise the selections for the Springbok and SA ‘A’ teams. It was pleasing to see their, and the rest of the training squad’s enthusiasm.
“The Springboks are facing the two best teams in the world on successive weekends in Ireland and France, and Italy and England are always forces to be reckoned with, especially at home, while Munster and Bristol are top clubs and will test the SA ‘A’ team thoroughly, and we are now all on the same page in terms of the expectations on the players and coaches.”
Erasmus added: “The next step is to decide which players will depart for Ireland on Saturday as members of the Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour, and those who will travel straight to Cork on Saturday, 5 November, as part of the SA ‘A’ touring group.”
The players who will depart for Ireland on Saturday will be withdrawn from their respective Vodacom United Rugby Championship franchises this weekend, while the other players will be eligible for selection for the two local derbies.
Nienaber said the coaches achieved what they set out to do at the camp: “The training camp was beneficial in many ways as the players are back in Test mode, we had an opportunity to look at and discuss the opposition we’ll be facing on tour, and we had a golden opportunity to work with the SA ‘A’ coaching team and expose them to the way we do things at the Springboks.
“There’s a huge sense of excitement within in the squad among the management and players, but we are under no illusions about the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead.”
Stick, the SA ‘A’ team head coach, was equally encouraged by the groundwork they put in place in the last few days: “We want to put together a strong team for what we know will be testing matches, and after seeing the training squad on the field and other players in action in their franchise and clubs competitions, I’m confident that we will be able to select a talented team featuring a good mix of youth and experience.
“The SA ‘A’ games will not only serve the purpose of exposing the players – both those who are young and their more experienced counterparts to top class international club rugby less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup – it will also allow the national coaches to give a wider group of players valuable game time at this level with the international spectacle in mind.”
The Springbok touring squad will assemble in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon and will depart for Ireland later in the evening.