Bok alignment camp only the first step to test rugby

general19 February 2024 11:10

Rassie Erasmus’ announcement of 48 names to attend the first Springboks alignment camp may have caused some feverish excitement among rugby fans, but in reality it is simply a first step on a long journey to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Anyone who has been following Erasmus over the six years he has been involved with the Springboks knows that these alignments camps often aren’t close to the final selection for the Springbok test squads, and serve as an opportunity for the Bok management to meet and work with young players who have shown promise and for the players to get to know the methodology of the Springbok camp.

So while it is a nod of the cap to those selected, saying they have been noticed, the Springbok squad to face Ireland in the first test series later this year is likely to look very much like the one that won the World Cup in Paris in November, barring injury and a few exceptions.


That isn’t to say that there isn’t value in selecting such a wide group of players to become acquainted with the Bok setup, but more that it allows more of an administrative, social and familiarity aspect so that any player called up in future would not be a deer in the headlights when he gets to the Bok camp.

Erasmus made it clear that he would use the first alignment camp to call up some under-23 players - good prospects over the next four year cycle - to be part of this camp with the long term eye on 2027, which makes a lot of sense.

And normally the names of the alignment camps aren’t made public, to prevent speculation and some hopes getting raised prematurely. Instead they should be seen as more guidelines as to who has been noticed, performed and who could be in the long term plans.


For instance, while Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Marnus van der Merwe have both been invited to the camps, it is highly unlikely that come July they will be replacing Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx. That is simply logical.

But their time at the camp gives the Bok management time to communicate what they’ve liked, what they want to see going forward and what may be lacking in their hopes of being a test player. It also takes them through a schedule of how the Boks work, so that there is familiarity if that call-up does come.

Plus the UK, Ireland and French based Springboks aren’t involved, nor are some of the Japanese-based players. In the past there have been alignment camps without franchises such as the Stormers included because they were playing in a playoff match for the URC, for instance.


The camp is set from 4 March, after the next round of Vodacom United Rugby Championship derbies, and takes place over two days to plan out the season.

The group of 43 include 39 domestic players and four Japan-based players, who are currently injured and doing their rehabilitation in South Africa. The group will gather on Tuesday 5 March for two days of boardroom sessions to get everyone up to speed on the way forward this season.

Nineteen individuals were members of the 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning team, including Ox Nche, Frans Malherbe (both props), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Marco van Staden (flanker) and Canan Moodie (utility back).

Some of those selected have been part of an SA A setup as well, including Sanele Nohamba, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Suleiman Hartzeberg.


New faces include Stormers captain Neethling Fouche, Andre-Hugo Venter, Bulls stars Johan Grobbelaar, Cameron Hanekom and Mpilo Gumede and Free State’s Marnus van der Merwe among the forwards while Jordan Hendrikse and Quan Horn are among the backline youngsters invited to the camp.

Commenting on the coaches’ strategic session, Erasmus said: “We are delighted that the new coaching team will meet in person for the first time and that we will have the opportunity to present solid structures and the Springbok culture and way of doing things to the invited players.

“The focus at this camp will be to get everyone on the same page for the 2024 season and we believe this will lay a good foundation for us looking forward.

“Jerry (Flannery) and Tony (Brown) are going to play vital roles in this coaching team, and we are excited to see them along with our other coaching staff put proper steps into action as we prepare for the challenging season ahead.”

Of the group of players invited to the camp, Erasmus said: “This bunch of players includes several individuals who have been part of our structures in the last six years, and their experience and familiarity with the way we do things at the Springboks, will be invaluable in guiding the younger players, while others have been exposed to it before by representing the SA ‘A’ team that faced Munster and the Bristol Bears in November 2022.


“There are also a few new players in the mix, who have proven their worth at provincial level and we are excited to see them receive this opportunity and get a real feel about what is expected of them at the highest level.”

This will mark the first of three alignment camps before the Springboks put the building blocks in place on the field for the international season, which includes two tests against Ireland and the first international against Portugal in the Castle Lager Incoming Series in July.

The Castle Lager Rugby Championship, meanwhile, will see the world champions play back-to-back tests against Australia away before successive tests against New Zealand at home, and two tests – one home and one away – against Argentina.


Players invited to Springbok alignment camp (in alphabetical order):

Forwards: Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Neethling Fouche (DHL Stormers), Johan Grobbelaar (Vodacom Bulls), Celimpilo Gumede (Vodacom Bulls), Cameron Hanekom (Vodacom Bulls), Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls), Wilco Louw (Vodacom Bulls), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Gerhard Steenekamp (Vodacom Bulls), Marnus van der Merwe (Toyota Cheetahs), Ruben van Heerden (DHL Stormers), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers), Ruan Venter (Emirates Lions), Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Vodacom Bulls).

Backs: Lukhanyo Am (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers), Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers), Jaden Hendrikse (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Emirates Lions), Quan Horn (Emirates Lions), Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls), Sanele Nohamba (Emirates Lions), Morne van den Berg (Emirates Lions), Henco van Wyk (Emirates Lions), Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers).