Given that he has no less than three Springboks with national contracts walking wounded, John Mitchell is very much aware of how South Africa’s top players need to be managed ahead of the Rugby Championship next month.
The Bulls mentor, in fact, agrees with some observers that local franchise’s poor results in Super Rugby this year could be a blessing in disguise for Rassie Erasmus and co.
With only the Lions realistically expected to make it to the semifinals of the tournament, the bulk of the current Springbok squad could have up to five weeks of rest before the opener against Argentina in Durban on August 18.
VIDEO: John Mitchell on young Manie Libbok having to deputise for Handre Pollard at No 1o
VIDEO: Blue Bulls coach John Mitchell on young former Junior Bok Manie Libbok replacing Springboks pivot Handre Pollard for the Super Rugby derby against the Lions Rugby Co.
Posted by The Citizen Sport on Thursday, 12 July 2018
“This relative unfortunate situation (South Africa’s poor campaign) can cut two ways,” said Mitchell on Thursday as his side prepares for their final game of the season against the Lions at Ellis Park.
“This break is probably going to enhance Rassie’s preparation. When you’re also successful, it builds belief. And belief is a really important ingredient for any upcoming side. I don’t think the players will lose momentum because of a break.”
The Bulls in particular have been hammered by injuries to key players, predominantly because the union hasn’t built enough depth for those men to be rotated without the risk of a deep slump in results.
Views on player management differs.
Mitchell is clearly an advocate of a decent resting period because of South Africa’s top players’ workload, while former national coach Heyneke Meyer argued players already become rusty again during a season if they miss two weeks’ action.
“Because we don’t carry local squads of total Super Rugby quality, there’s an extra load on the internationals and we can’t rotate them,” said the Bulls mentor.
“The Boks have built some early belief against England but the Rugby Champs is a different beast altogether. I think this substantial break is going to be a big advantage for the national players.”
Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Jamba Ulengo, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Thembelani Bholi, Marco van Staden, RG Snyman (c), Jannes Kirsten, Conraad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Mornay Smit, Ruan Nortje, Nic de Jager, Embrose Papier, Boeta Hamman, Divan Rossouw.
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