Rugby in 2022 continues to evolve at the highest level

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The year 2022 saw that rugby in South Africa is in a very healthy state at the highest level. The Springboks continue to prepare to defend their crown at next year’s World Cup in France with mixed success, the women’s Springbok team demonstrated better depth and structures at this year’s World Cup where once there was nothing.

The South African franchises have taken to European competition with enthusiasm, and the Blitzboks continue to compete at the highest level.

The Springboks began their international season with a 2-1 series win over Wales in July. The incoming series was an opportunity for the Boks’ coaching staff to assess as many players as they could at test level. The goal for the year was to tweak their World Cup plans as much as they could, with Boks coach Jacques Nienaber willing to take a few losses if it meant testing depth.

The Springbok coach says they always try to develop their game plan

“We always try and kind of develop our game plan and I guess you can only play to what the opposition give you.”

Rugby championship

The start of the Rugby Championship saw the Boks quick out of the blocks with a huge win over New Zealand on the lowveld. The Rugby Championship saw prospects like Kurt Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie become full blown stars. However, the Boks weren’t finding the tournament plain sailing, notching up losses to New Zealand and Australia, and ultimately having to settle for second place behind the All Blacks.

Throughout the season the Boks would put a high premium on the pressure they might face in next year’s World Cup, and Bok captain Siya Kolisi said they tried replicate that wherever possible during the course of the season.

“I think for us it is more about momentum and obviously the coaches have plans on what players they want to see and everything and we’ll play a small role but World Cups are different.”

While the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, faced more world rugby sanctions for his conduct on social media, he continued to stress that everything he was doing was with the World Cup in mind, including testing the waters against the officiating.

The Boks continued with their very specific methods, with Erasmus trying to explain them as they went along.

“Are you getting solutions? Are you getting answers? I don’t want to say we are always learning people get tired if you say you are learning but we certainly know if we get France in the quarter-final that game we thought could have gone either way even with the red cards and everything that was.

South Africa’s end of year tour saw them lose to Ireland and France, ranked one and two in the world respectively, before wins over Italy and England. Again, the Springboks were trying to simulate world cup clashes and conditions. Erasmus emphasised the positives from the losses in particular, but did admit that they were trying the patience of their supporters.

The Boks are keen to impress that they are very much in control of their own destiny as they look to defend their World Cup crown. And while the coaches do a lot of explaining, every now and then one gets an insight into the Boks camp, and the impression is that all seems to be well amongst the players.

Damian de Allende explains: “We’ve got good cohesion inside the squad. I think everyone respects each other. There is no hierarchy which is nice but there is that level of respect for guys who have been around for a long time, even a guy with a first cap he gets the same level of respect.”

The Blitzboks were unable to defend their series title, narrowly losing to Australia in the 21-22 season.

This current Blitzboks side, under the guidance of new coach, Sandile Ngcobo, is starting to click. They will finish the year level on points with Samoa at the top of the series standings, having won the Dubai 7s for a tenth time.

Rugby franchises

South Africa’s rugby franchises have taken to their new tournaments with a bang. The Stormers won the United Rugby championship, beating the Bulls 18-13 in the final.

South Africa has become fully immersed in European rugby, with teams also competing in the European Champions and Challenge Cups.

The landscape of the game continues to evolve, and South African continues to be amongst the pace-setters.