Why Springboks’ alignment camp likely to be eye-opener for rising stars

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus passes a ball during a warm-up drill.

Springbok coach Rugby Rassie Erasmus will want to get the rookies on the same page during the Springboks’ alignment camp. Picture: Adrian Dennis / AFP

Published Mar 5, 2024


The Springboks’ first step to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia starts on Tuesday in Cape Town, with Bok mastermind Rassie Erasmus holding his first alignment camp with 43 players.

It is also the first time the coaching additions of former All Black Tony Brown (attack) and former Irish hooker Jerry Flannery (defence) will rub shoulders with some of the reigning world champions and the newly invited crop of players as they start the planning for the 2024 international season and beyond.

Erasmus, the 2019 World Cup-winning coach, returns to take the reins with double Test matches against Ireland in July, and a face-off with Portugal in Bloemfontein later this year. The Irish Tests will take place at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria and King’s Park in Durban.

Later in the year, during the Rugby Championship, the Springboks will also face fierce rivals New Zealand in two home Tests in Cape Town and Johannesburg as part of their blockbuster season after being crowned back-to-back champions at the 2023 World Cup.

For the 16 uncapped players invited, the camp will be about taking in as much information about the Bok set-up as they can, to familiarise themselves with exactly how things are done at international level. They are used to how things run at their franchises, but their eyes are bound to be opened to a whole new level of planning and coaching over the next two days.

Youngsters like Lions centre Henco van Wyk, his half-back teammates Morne van den Berg and Jordan Hendrikse, Stormers rookies like Suleiman Hartzenberg and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and impressive Bulls forwards Cameron Hanekom, Mpilo Gumede (loose forwards) and Johan Grobbelaar (hooker) will learn from and rub shoulders with double World Cup winners such as Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Damian Willemse, Willie le Roux and Makazole Mapimpi in the Mother City.

Although it’s just an alignment camp that obviously does not guarantee any of them a shot at the Boks, the introduction to the Springbok set-up and the way of Erasmus will go a long way in getting them ready should they receive a national call-up in the future.

The camp will be without foreign-based players, except four players from Japan, who are currently recovering from injuries picked up at their different clubs.

So, when overseas guys like World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman join the fray, some of this week’s invitees will most likely miss a second or third camp.

But for Erasmus and Co, it will give the insurance that a specific player was in the set-up previously, and should they call on him again, he will be familiar with what is required from him at the Boks and he won’t be like a deer caught in headlights.

Meanwhile, general tickets that went on sale yesterday for the Irish clash at Loftus sold out within hours.

“It’s the third sold-out Test match at Loftus Versfeld in the past three years, which is an amazing sign for rugby in South Africa, especially Pretoria, where rugby fever is at an all-time high,” Edgar Rathbone, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company, said yesterday in a statement.

“I do not doubt that this Test selling out in such a short time will have a positive impact on the sales for the remaining Test matches to be played in South Africa later this year.”