How Lions can benefit from June break
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The June break may hold the risk of breaking their momentum, but Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes it has greater benefits.
While they will not play together as a team, there will be plenty of game time for the bulk of his squad - at a higher level.
Ten players are in the Springbok squad for the three-Test series against France and another four have been called up for the South African 'A' team that will play two matches against the French Barbarians.
Ackermann said that his players will benefit from competing at international level.
He is adamant that his team will not be undercooked when the competition resumes at the end of June.
"Some years it [the June break] benefitted us, when players came back from injury," he said of the annual June break.
"At the moment we have a relatively healthy squad and we have momentum, so there is this period of uncertainty.
"However, [Lions and Bok captain] Warren [Whiteley] and a group of other guys will have some tough games [against France], while there are other guys who will be involved in the SA 'A' team [against the French Barbarians]."
The big risk is that with 14 players involved in the two national teams there is a chance of injury to key players.
The Lions are certainly not alone in this scenario and their main rivals in the competition carry the same risks.
"The All Blacks [New Zealand franchises with players in national teams] are in the same boat," Ackermann said, adding: "They will play a tough series [against the British and Irish Lions].
"Then the Australian team will play in tough matches.
"We have a large number [of players with the national teams] and that is the big thing - we have to deal with it.
"It would have been nice to just keep on playing for the next three or four weeks and get into the play-offs.
"However, that is not in our hands and we just have to manage the guys.
"All the teams are in the same boat."
The key aspect is how the Lions will manage their players once they return from international duty.
"We will managed it from individual to individual. Last year we had a number of Springboks, but not many of them started in all the Tests against Ireland.
"It is good for them to keep on training, to stay fit and have match fitness.
"It is better than the guys having the entire four weeks off.
"There is a chance that Warren [Whiteley] will play all 80 minutes in the three Tests, as the [Bok] captain.
"We will have to manage him in that first week ahead of the Sunwolves game.
"We have to look how much game time did a player get. Did he play off the bench? Did he start? Is he carrying any niggles?
"We have to manage the players from there on.
"A guy like Kyle Brink must play one or two domestic games. With the Springboks we must first see how much game time they got."
The coach feels it is also the experience of playing at international level that will benefit his players.
"If you look at players like Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Dreyer, when they play international rugby they will grow as players.
"You don't get a much bigger scrum challenge than the French.
"Courtnall could get some Test experience and he will come back with that experience.
"That could benefit us in the play-offs.
"Last year we played some of out best rugby after the [June break], so hopefully we can do the same this year."