It was a balmy Brisbane which greeted the Springboks on Sunday evening (Australian time) after a trip of more than 20 hours that started in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, included a stopover in Sydney and ended at their hotel in the Queensland capital.
The Springboks face Australia in the third round of The Castle Lager Rugby Championship at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. Although the South Africans have not beaten the hosts at this venue in a Test, they will approach the game with a quiet confidence after two good wins over Argentina last month.
Springbok loose forward Siya Kolisi, who is on his first Castle Lager Rugby Championship tour, is very excited about the challenge of facing the Wallabies on Saturday, but he admitted the travel to Brisbane was a bit arduous.
“Yes, I do feel quite tired, but we have a rest day tomorrow and I’m very excited to finally be here,” said Kolisi, who missed out on participation in the Rugby Champs last year because of a broken hand.
Kolisi said the Boks have put their 22-17 win over Argentina in Mendoza behind them and are now firmly focused on facing the Aussies this weekend.
“Our first aim will be to fix the mistakes we made against Argentina. The key areas would be patience, keeping the ball and sticking to our structures. It worked very well when we stuck to our guns in the first game (against Argentina at Soccer City),” he said.
Although the victory in Mendoza was not nearly as good as the 73-13 hammering dished out to the Pumas the week before, Kolisi said it was a positive for the team to get their first away-win in this competition since 2009.
“You take confidence out of winning away from home – it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly. It’s always very hard to win away from home so we took that positive from the Mendoza game.”
The Springboks will use Monday to flush out any of the after-effects of the long travel before hitting the training field on Tuesday. The team for Saturday’s Test will be named on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the 5 Springboks who had to go to France to honour Club committments, also arrived in Australia, raring to go and nice and fresh.
The Springbok European contingent have for the most part all arrived back at the Bok team hotel and are raring to go.
Morne Steyn arrived an hour after the rest of the Bok team late on Sunday night after returning from France while Gurthro Steenkamp and Jano Vermaak both rejoined the team on Monday morning.
Juandre Kruger and Bryan Habana are both due to rejoin the team in time for their flush-out session on Monday, where the Boks will put in a light gym and pool session to get them over the effects of jetlag.
But while they are all in good spirits, some questions still linger whether it was worth the trips back to France for the five players, especially as they were mostly used sparingly.
In Habana’s case he was used for the last 10 minutes of his match with Toulon, coming off the bench as they went down 26-28 to Grenoble after Jonny Wilkinson missed a last-minute conversion to Matt Giteau’s try that would have levelled the game.
Steyn played 20 minutes of his side’s (Stade Français) 38-3 win over Biarritz, and was happy with the game time he got.
“It was an amazing atmosphere, and I really enjoyed it,” he told supersport.com after arriving at the team hotel.
Steenkamp and Vermaak both played 70 minutes as Toulouse went down 38-19 to Clermont, and then had to drive three hours to Lyon to catch a flight to Brisbane via Dubai, but were surprisingly fresh as both managed to get some sleep on the plane.
Kruger’s Racing Metro team beat Oyannax 22-9 in their game.
On Monday, coach Heyneke Meyer said he was impressed with all five players’ attitude as they were very keen to rejoin the team after returning from Europe.
“I think they’re professional players and they know how to look after themselves. Their attitude was great and they’re all raring to go,” Meyer said.
Asked if it was worth it to have them fly all that way, the Bok coach was non-committal, but said he was simply happy to have their services for this weekend’s test match.
“That decision is not in my hands. You should ask the clubs. I’m just grateful everyone came through and arrived here fresh and fit and are ready for the challenge. Its great to have them back. I’ve met them all this morning with the exception of Bryan (Habana) and JK (Juandre Kruger) but the rest of the guys look fresh, so they’re ready to go.”
Of the five, Steyn and Habana are expected to start, while Kruger, Steenkamp and Vermaak are all likely to be on the bench for the Boks.
Team doctor Craig Roberts also gave the all-clear for both Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson to rejoin training after niggling injuries when the team takes the field on Tuesday.
“With injuries we’re quite lucky. First of all not many guys played on the weekend, but the guys who did came through fine. Chiliboy (Ralepelle) is on the final phase of his recovery from a back injury he picked up two weeks ago. He’s done really well and will slot in with the rest of the squad tomorrow (Tuesday). Bjorn Basson is the only other one with a worry, he’s got a wrist sprain and he also did full training with the squad on Sunday and will slot in. So we have a fully fit squad to choose from,” Dr Roberts said.
Despite having to fly from Argentina to South Africa and again to Australia with only a few days’ break, Dr Roberts said the jetlag factor is not something they are overly concerned with.
“In terms of the jetlag, it is always difficult. This is a truly global competition and you end up flying right around the world and you develop certain strategies to deal with that. The players are used to the travel and the more you travel the easier it does become. With Super Rugby the players are very comfortable coming to Australia and New Zealand and they know the symptoms of jetlag. We also have strategies in place to have them adapt as quickly as possible.
“Today is a very low key session, we don’t have a field session, just a flush out and we will start building towards rugby related sessions from tomorrow,” he added.