Cape Town – When the Stormers squad for this week’s trip to Argentina was announced on Monday, the name of Siya Kolisi may as well have been written in bold.
After three gruelling Test matches against England where the Boks have gone a long way towards restoring some pride to the national jersey, Kolisi is in desperate need of a rest.
He has been ever-present in captaining the Stormers in Super Rugby this season, and now he will be on a plane to South America on Tuesday, having had just two full days off after the England series.
He is not the only one, of course.
The likes of Pieter-Steph du Toit – who will have done America, South Africa and Argentina for five outings in less than a month – is also due a break.
Franco Mostert at the Lions, Tendai Mtawarira at the Sharks and RG Snyman at the Bulls … all could use some time off.
But with the Super Rugby sides under their own pressures to perform, these players will in all likelihood have to suck it up a while longer.
The Stormers, for example, need a minor miracle if they are to qualify for the Super Rugby playoffs this year. Coach Robbie Fleck, though, is under massive pressure at the moment and he will be hell-bent on securing two wins to end the season and hopefully restore some dignity along the way.
Why, then, would he go into any match without his captain and the bruising, game-changing Du Toit?
In the best interests of the Stormers, it makes sense to run the engines of Kolisi and Du Toit for as long as possible.
But, in the eyes of Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks, it is a decision that has the potential to do more harm than good.
When asked about his chances of winning the World Cup in Japan next year in his post-match press conference on Saturday, Erasmus began speaking about the unique balancing act facing him between now and then.
Managing the workloads of his players was the first challenge he spoke of while using Kolisi’s minutes this season as an example.
It is one area where South African Rugby is still light years behind the All Blacks.
The improvements on the field may be there for all to see, but until South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises are all on the same page and united in the common cause of aiding the national side, the Springboks will struggle to keep up.
In May this year, the Chiefs went into a Super Rugby clash against the Sharks in Durban with 20 players unavailable because of injuries and the fact that the All Blacks had requested a camp back home.
Mid-Super Rugby, the Chiefs had to give up all of their national players for a tough assignment in Durban.
And while the depleted Chiefs lost that game, there was no moaning and groaning. Instead, there was an understanding that this was a decision for the greater good.
It is extremely difficult to picture the same thing ever happening in South Africa.
For all of his faults, this is what former coach Allister Coetzee was trying to address during his two troublesome years in charge of the Boks.
The coaching Indaba of 2016 was part of his efforts to get the Super Rugby franchises on the same page. Coetzee wanted every decision to be taken with the Springboks in mind.
On the surface, it was a noble idea and one that made the most sense.
But, in the age of professionalism and financial concerns at unions, the Super Rugby sides must look out for themselves first.
It is a problem that doesn’t appear to have an end in sight just yet, but Erasmus simply has to have more say in how his key players are used between now and the World Cup.
The planning off the field is just as important as the performances on it.
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