Visits by Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and Rugby World Cup winning prop Frans Malherbe added to the excitement in the last few days at the SA Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch as the players continue to show steady progress in the third week of the programme.
Stick joined the backs for a skills session last week, while the forwards had the pleasure of working with Malherbe in a scrummaging session on Monday, and Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko shared in the players’ excitement.
“Having Mzwandile Stick and Frans Malherbe here was phenomenal,” said Nhleko.
“Mzwandile was excited to be here and to get stuck with in the guys. He also gave good insights which the boys took to heart.
“As for Frans, I think some guys were getting goosebumps just watching him operate and seeing him get involved. This is particularly important from a learning perspective as it allows the players to see what it takes to get to that level, so we are very grateful for the opportunity.”
Nhleko added: “Having the Springbok coaches and players join our training sessions occasionally is part of SA Rugby’s alignment programme.
“Just as we work closely with the senior Springbok management to ensure that we instill some of the values they would like to see as the players progress through the ranks, it is our responsibility to see that filter down into the Elite Player Development programme at school level.”
Nhleko was encouraged by the progress made by the squad in the last three weeks and said: “We are getting there slowly. We’ve started with some intensity work and contact integration, and the conditioning is improving too.
“The biggest thing for us is that the players’ bodies are starting to adapt, which is pleasing, as the schedule is quite gruelling and a lot of them haven’t been exposed to rugby, let alone this environment in a year or so.
“So, I am quite pleased with how they are adapting and to see their intent. We certainly feel as though we have made progress and some real good growth this week in particular.”
The 2021 SA Rugby Academy programme is set to run until 30 June.