Sunday Tribune

Long and winding road: Bok tour a logistical nightmare

- JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

THE biggest obstacle in the way of the Springboks winning all five of their matches in Europe next month won’t necessaril­y be the opposition, but something far more difficult to overcome: fatigue.

And we’re not just talking about the length and demand of this season that may take its toll on the players. The Springbok players could very well tire themselves out far more easily off the field than on it. The reason is that, for the first time in years, the Boks will play not only Test matches on their European tour, but two midweek matches as well.

And the fact the touring squad will be a much bigger one than before, standing at 37 players and up to 15 management members, makes the travelling even more demanding.

Springbok team logistics manager Charles Wessels has apparently had quite a time of it in recent weeks, trying to fig- ure out how best to move the Bok team around Europe.

For one, the 37-man squad will travel overseas in two groups, a week apart, with the midweek team returning home 10 days before the Test players return to South Africa.

And complicati­ng matters for Wessels and the Boks is the fact that the two extra matches, against Leicester and Saracens, are in England, 10 days apart and with a Test in between.

So for those who think it’s simply a matter of hopping on the plane and going overseas, just have a look at what the Boks will have to go through just to be in action next month.

The midweek team play the first match of the tour, against Leicester in Leicester on Friday, November 6. They leave South Africa on Tuesday November 3 to London, where they’ll take a bus to Leicester. The Test team remain in Johannesbu­rg until their departure the following Tuesday, November 10.

On Wednesday November 11, the Bok Test team will arrive in Munich, Germany, en route to Toulouse, France. There they’ll meet up with the midweek team, who’ll arrive from London where they based themselves after their match against Leicester.

The full squad will then stay in Toulouse until the Sunday after the Test against France, which is on Friday, November 13, before moving on to London for the midweek match on November 17 against Saracens.

The next day, the midweek team returns to South Africa on two flights, while the Test team take a chartered flight from London City Airport to Trieste in northern Italy. There they board a bus which will take them to Udine, where the Test against Italy will be played on Saturday, November 21.

Then on the Sunday after the Italy Test, the Boks again climb on a bus to Venice from where they will board a plane to Dublin. Here they will stay for the whole week leading up to the Test against Ireland.

With the midweek team playing their first match a full week before the first Test, against France, there is also a chance coach Peter de Villiers will go to London and Leicester for the match on Friday and return to South Africa at the weekend, giving him more time with his Test team in South Africa before they depart for Toulouse, via Munich, a few days later.

If you’re tired reading this, spare a thought for the players who have to live through it, and then still produce the goods on the field. It’s going to be a trying tour, in more ways than one.

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