Springboks asking Super Rugby teams to rest top players
Mar. 18, 2015
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Top South African internationals should not play more than five consecutive games in Super Rugby without a rest in an informal agreement between the national union and domestic teams in preparation for the World Cup.
The South African Rugby Union also wants some of those players to sit out for two to four weeks to manage their workload ahead of September's showpiece.
SARU said on Wednesday the preseason agreement with its five Super Rugby teams was an "understanding" and "not legally binding," as South Africa tries to follow the lead of world champion New Zealand, which often rests top All Blacks such as Dan Carter and captain Richie McCaw for parts of Super Rugby.
This year, standout All Blacks forwards Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock joined their Super Rugby team a month into the tournament after resting up from a busy 2014.
SARU wants to "prioritize" the World Cup in England, it said, but accepted that would be difficult with South Africa's fierce rivalry between its domestic teams. Those Super Rugby teams are often unwilling to sit out their top players.
"We realize it is a balancing act for coaches in terms of juggling their union's needs and the national interest," SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said.
SARU said it met with Super Rugby team coaches and bosses at the beginning of the season and "the desirability of managing the playing time of an identified group of Springbok players was agreed."
No specific players were identified, but the agreement refers to the country's top internationals getting at least one game off after every five.
There was nothing compelling Super Rugby teams to rest the players, but Roux said "if we get 90 percent compliance during the season it will be a 100 percent improvement on where we were a year ago, when no player could expect any break."
Super Rugby runs from February to July, No. 2-ranked South Africa has tests in July and August, and the World Cup starts in September, making for a potentially grueling year for players in a physically taxing game like rugby.
New Zealand and Australia have similar schedules.
The SARU announcement followed recent comments by Springboks team doctor Craig Roberts, who estimated two players injured per game for each South African team in Super Rugby. Roberts said he was worried about how much action rugby players faced ahead of the World Cup.