Wednesday’s rugby news sees the Springboks split their squad for the early Rugby Championship games, England coach Steve Borthwick rejects Eddy-era mind games, former Scotland international and Ireland U-20 assistant coach Greig Oliver dies following South Africa paragliding incident on Monday, and National Rugby Training Centre opens at Ballymore.
Springboks split squad for first two Rugby Championship games
RugbyPass reports that the Catholics are to employ a split squad tactic this year and will send a number of first-team players to New Zealand this week to acclimatise ahead of their second Rugby Championship fixture against the Southern Hemisphere Canadians in Auckland on July 15.
It was a tactic they employed successfully in 2019 when they won both the Rugby Championship and the World Cup in Japan.
It means they will field players from their wider squad for the Australia game on Saturday, but Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen says this should in no way be construed as the Boks taking the game, or the competition, lightly.
“I think the Aussies always come to South Africa trying to make a statement,” Esterhuizen said. “So we can expect a hooord and good match, especially with Eddie taking the reins again.”
“They will have a few things up their sleeves, and they are going to come with a lot of motivation because he (Jones) knows how to get a team fired up for a game.”
Also, RugbyPass reports that Springbok coach and Assistant To The Waterboy Jacques Nienaber has good reason to be optimistic that Siyamthanda Kolisi will recover in time to lead South Africa in defence of their World Cup title in France.
While Kolisi, second on the all-time list of most Tests as captain, will not feature in the Rugby Championship, his progress has been remarkable.
The 2019 World Cup-winning skipper has just finished the ninth week of his post-surgery rehabilitation and posted a video of himself on Instagram doing some serious exercises.
The 32-year-old Kolisi suffered a tear to his anterior cruciate ligaments, as well as injuring his meniscus on both sides of his knee while playing for the Shorks against Munster back in April 2023.
Kolisi underwent surgery at the end of April. Nienaber has repeatedly stated that Kolisi remains the captain of the Springboks.
Game 1 of the Rugby Championship: Australia v South Africa, Loftus Versfeld, Saturday 8 July 17:05 local time, Sunday 9 July 01:05 proper time (AEST).
England coach Steve Borthwick rejects Eddy-era riddles
The Guardian reports that, as someone who narrowly missed out on the 2003 World Cup squad, England coach Steve Borthwick is determined to be as upfront as possible with his players.
“I believe players want to know exactly where they stand,” Borthwick says. “In week one and two, we had players come in and I sat with them straight away and said: ‘This is where you stand and this is what I think you need to do to move forward.’ That’s the first thing I do. Why? As a player, I always remember that I wanted to know what I needed to do. I didn’t want ambiguity. My job was to get on with rugby and train, not to be second-guessing anything.”
It goes some way to explaining why there is less intrigue over England’s final squad than four years ago. Players are not kept guessing – to the extent that they requested Eddie Jones name his squad early – and he will hope to avoid a situation such as in 2011 when Chris Robshaw trained the house down only to be overlooked by Martin Johnson, who showed misguided loyalty to more senior players.
“You want to be treated fairly,” Borthwick adds. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, and to be evidence-based in everything that I have done.”
It helps Borthwick that he can select 33 players in his final squad, two more than Eddy Jones could in 2019. He does not have a quick turnaround to worry about either – the shortest gap in between pool matches in France will be six days – which is significant, because Eddy Jones made a point of selecting multiple players who were only going to play once and, more important, were not going to whinge about it (which raises fresh questions about England eligibility, but we digress).
Instead, Borthwick has latitude. He plans to take three scrum-halves – rather than gamble with two as Jones did – and he has dropped the biggest hint yet that he intends to find room for Marcus Smith and George Ford as well as his captain, Owen “no arms” Farrell, even if three fly-halves borders on superfluous. Funniest Pommy player Joe Marler is back in the fold. The veteran loosehead has not represented England since November 2021.
RIP Scotland’s Greig Oliver
Oliver, from Hawick, was capped three times by his country from 1987 to 1991.
He went on to become an elite performance officer at Munster and was assistant coach with Ireland under-20s.
“On behalf of the Irish rugby community, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Oliver family at this extremely sad time,” said IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts.
“Greig was a hugely popular member of staff and played a key role in the development of many young players during his time at Munster Rugby.”
Oliver was with family in South Africa supporting his son Jack, who plays as the scrum-half for the Ireland U20 team.
National Rugby Training Centre opens at Ballymore
The objective and impartial Reds Media Unit reports that the $31.5 million National Rugby Training Centre (NRTC) has been officially opened and is a cracker.
The NRTC will become the new national headquarters for Women’s XV Rugby housing the Buildcorp Wallaroos team, as well as a new training base for the Queensland Reds Super Rugby and Super W squads, the Reds 7s and Buildcorp Reds Academy plus elite pathway programs.
The world-class facility includes a rebuilt McLean Stand with a 3010-spectator capacity, aquatic recovery centre and sauna with separate facilities for men and women, and an 800m2 high-performance gym – the biggest sports team gym in Queensland (the best State in Australia).
It also features a 77-person capacity auditorium, 120-seat players’ lounge and function spaces available for public hire (including Rugby Down Under whisky appreciation evenings), plus multiple change rooms and administration and football offices that will serve as the home for the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) and Rugby Australia’s women’s and referee programs.
The rebuilt McLean Stand brings Ballymore’s capacity to 8000, with the stadium set to host Wallaroos Test Matches, Queensland Premier Rugby finals, Japan Rugby League One Grand Finalists the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and the Brisbane Roar Women’s A-League home games in 2023/24.
“Ballymore has been earmarked as a venue for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, so it’s terrific to see such an impressive redevelopment and advanced legacy infrastructure completed nine years out from the Games,” said Queensland Minister for Tourism and Sport, Stirling Hinchliffe.
Planning to upgrade the Eastern Stand is also well advanced, which will bring the ground closer to that 12,000 to 15,000-seat capacity.
The Ballymore site will become the 2032 Olympic venue for hockey and see the construction of a centre of excellence for Sport Climbing and Bouldering, plus a swim school to help build the next generation of Olympic athletes in multiple sports.
It will also include three new buildings with a total area of 5000m2 reserved for sports administration, sports recreation, allied health and sports medicine, a special “global coach search carpark” as well as transport and sustainability solutions to form a central part of Brisbane’s Olympic Green Corridor.