The third Springbok training camp held in Johannesburg in preparation for next month’s three-Test series against France was an enjoyable experience.
We had three fantastic days with the playing group, which I believe will stand the team in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead this season.
I have no idea how Allister Coetzee could have prepared a team in the past without training camps, because you need to get through a significant amount of work in a professional environment prior to a Test match.
There is no way you can squeeze all the work we did at the camps into a Test week.
One of the biggest problems in South African rugby is that our teams are struggling on defence.
Consequently, we had two quality field-training sessions in Sandton, which primarily focused on defence and exit strategies.
The invited players arrived with a wonderful attitude, worked tirelessly and what I found really impressive was the way in which they executed at the camp.
As I told the players, it is one thing having a plan and another being able to implement it on the field.
However, the assembled playing group applied what we had discussed in our planning and video sessions, which fortified my belief that South Africa possesses richly talented rugby players.
At the conclusion of the training camp earlier this week, the Springbok and South AfricanA squads were announced.
I believe that Coetzee has managed to select two strong squads for the matches against France and the French Barbarians.
In terms of the former side, we have assembled a well-rounded squad that I foresee will prove highly competitive.
However, owing to the fact that eight uncapped players are in the mix, the one element that the squad lacks is experience – a commodity that cannot be bought
While the bulk of the 31-man Springbok squad comprises locally based players, which is the way forward, the inclusion of foreign-based personnel in the form of Duane Vermeulen, Francois Hougaard and Frans Steyn, who boast a collective 129 Test caps, makes sense to compensate for a lack of Test experience within the current playing group.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Warren Whiteley as the 58th Springbok captain is a masterstroke in my book.
When you get the opportunity to work with someone in a training environment, you are able to witness the true value of a player. From first-hand experience, Whiteley has an unbelievably positive attitude towards training and he has a deep understanding of the game.
With Elton Jantjies, Whiteley is a player who really impressed in the past two national training camps. He comes well-prepared, is organised and coachable.
Moreover, the Lions skipper, who has led his Super Rugby franchise more than 50 times, is an amazing person and impressive individual
As Coetzee pointed out, difficult times build character.
And, if you were to read the full story of the 29-year-old’s rugby journey, you would realise that Whiteley has had to fight to get where he is today – it did not come easily.
He took the long road to become Springbok captain.
It could not have happened to a nicer guy and there is no one more deserving of the honour and responsibility of leading his nation.