Boks' 2019 World Cup squad identified
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Josh Isaacson reports for rugby365 from the Springbok training camp in Johannesburg.
Allister Coetzee has already identified the group of players he wants to take to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
This is one of the gems to come out a media briefing by assistant coach Johann van Graan, as the Boks step up preparations for their four-match, three-Test year-end tour.
According to Van Graan, they will start afresh, at 'base zero', as they look to put behind them a season of horror results - which include a record 15-57 loss to the All Blacks, the first-ever loss to Ireland on South African soil and the first-ever loss to Argentina in Argentina.
It starts with a very young squad against the Barbarians at the Wembley Stadium next Saturday (November 5) and then - when a host of European-based players join a very different, revamped squad - they face England (London, November 12), Italy (Florence, November 19) and Wales (Cardiff, November 26).
While the two separate squads may have different goals - some youngsters keen to impress the coach and a group of established players looking to mend their battered reputations - the tour will give the coach a chance to see if he has made the right selections.
"The coach [Allister Coetzee] said that he has identified close to 45 players who he wants to focus on for the 2019 World Cup [in Japan]," Van Graan told the media gathering in Johannesburg.
"We see that as the start of it now," he said, adding: "That's our mindset for this week - [we went back] to start at base zero."
Van Graan added that the Springboks will be focusing on their basic skill-sets in training this week, before they turn their attention to the Barbarians when they arrive in London on Saturday.
"In everything we do we had a look at what we do and where we can improve," the Boks' assistant coach said.
"I think the players can talk more about that.
"We are focusing more on the small details - ball carrying ability, cleaning ability and identification of space, our attacking mindset.
"We want to get the ball in our hands.
"If you want to do that, you need to uplift your skills - start at base zero.
"We will focus on that this week and once we get to London we will focus on the Barbarians."
While Van Graan admitted the prospect of almost a full team joining them after the Barbarians game for the rest of the tour is "not ideal", the overseas-based players were senior enough to slot in rather quickly.
"It is what it is and it has been like that for a few years now," he said of European- and Japan-based players being unavailable for matches outside World Rugby's international window.
"Most of those guys are very experienced players and have all been part of the system.
"That is why we have a specific plan to focus on our skill level and to upskill our players and that sort of detail fits into the bigger plan, which is obviously to win Test matches.
"It isn't ideal. [We will have] only a few sessions before we face England, but they are included in all our communication. It is what it is."
Looking at the new additions to the Springbok squad for next weekend's game against the Barbarians, Van Graan added that he has been impressed with what he has seen from the likes of Cheetahs flank Uzair Cassiem - who won the man of the match in their 36-16 Currie Cup Final victory over the Blue Bulls last weekend.
"He [Cassiem] has been unbelievable in the last two games. It's the first time that I've worked with him.
"From looking at him the one thing that stands out for me is the character of Cassiem, his decision making in the wide channels, when to come hard, when to use his feet, when to tap and go, defensively when to go into the breakdown and when to stay out. I am very impressed with him," Van Graan said.
By Josh Isaacson, in Johannesburg