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Treadmills and wine tasting

I thought the Springboks’ performance in the first test against England was very impressive. One can only admire the physical intensity of the players, bearing in mind the physical demands on them through playing Super Rugby with very few breaks since February.

There was much to enthuse about in the clinical nature of the performance. When you consider that the team had only one week in which to prepare – after tough derby matches the previous weekend – it would be churlish to be critical.

Heyneke Meyer and his coaching staff did a superb job in ensuring meticulous preparation to establish a clear gameplan and have the entire squad playing as a co-ordinated unit.

The Stormers’ squad had last week off, but Schalk Burger and I spent most of our time at the High Performance Centre doing rehab and running in the rain. We are also now running on a treadmill called the Alter G at Velocity gym in Hout Bay. This treadmill is designed to take the pressure off your joints by allowing you to run on a chosen percentage of your body weight. This means that you are able to do cardio without putting your knee joint under undue pressure.

I joined my Western Province lock pairing from under 21, Quinn Roux and the legendary Reniel Hugo, at the Wacky Wine festival in the Robertson Valley. We stayed on my family farm and were joined by Irish friends of mine.

The Irish lads’ contribution to our game of 30 Seconds was pure entertainment. Every explanation sounded like they were telling a joke or humorous story. They came last as they have never heard of Yvonne Chaka Chaka or a mountain range called the Drakensberg!

Catching up with my Stormers’ teammates on Monday was good fun. Deon Fourie was ill because all he did during the week-long break on a hunting farm in Limpopo was read books and drink tea.

The other players did testing at the HPC. After a series of gym tests, they ran a timed 1.6km time trial around the field and then did repeated sprints.

Quinn Roux was probably the pick of the horses for the 1.6, though when he came around the final bend and opened up, he resembled – rather than a racehorse – a Golden Arrow bus racing down a steep hill. We thought he was going to carry on through the wall and into the parking lot.

The heavy underfoot conditions ensured the front rows’ lower backs gave them plenty of trouble and Scarra Ntubeni led all the way until the last 30 metres, when he went into treadmill mode as it looked like he had gone into reverse!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week of Twitter. It is now my new hobby since, despite my best efforts, I just cannot beat my score of 154 in five overs in Stick Cricket. I have decided to retire.

My favourite tweet of the week is by Alan Garner from The Hangover: “Whenever I delete an app on my iPhone, the shaking icons make me feel like they’re panicked over who’s getting cut from the team”. I'm sorry that the Blackberrians won’t understand this one; please ask a friend with an iPhone to explain.

It was absolutely awesome to see Eben Etzebeth make his Springbok debut. Eben is the most genuine, unpretentious character. He may now be a test lock, but his favourite drink remains Sparletta Sparberry, as we believe he’s not old enough to drink alcohol yet. He is fascinated by shopping malls and skyscrapers and rumour has it he’s the tallest structure in his hometown!

With Bryan Habana away with the Springboks, the organisation of golf for the famous four-ball constituted by Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon, Burton Francis and Bryan now lies with Juan. Obviously, I suppose, they have not played once since Bryan handed over arrangements to Juan.

Juan is too busy keeping our masseur Greg Daniels occupied. Greg is the fellow you habitually see jumping up and down on our replacements’ bench, screaming as if he has his mortgage on the game. I can't imagine how happy Greg must have been on Saturday after the game against the Bulls at the prospect of a break from duty, but he was reportedly crying in the corner after the game when the Springbok squad was announced and Juan hadn’t been selected. He had been hoping for a holiday. Instead, he is now having to sleep with his hands on ice, as Juan’s demands are very high. He even asked Greg to massage between his toes the other day.

We are all delighted for Gio Aplon to have received a call-up to the Springbok team. He is such a skilful player and a true team man who deserves to play at the highest level. I hope he gets the opportunity on Saturday to show how much value he can add to the Bok performance.

What are prospects for the second test? While the Springboks were formidable in the first test and won the game, in my view, more comfortably than the 22-17 scoreline suggests, this England team showed in the Six Nations that they are resolute, proud and a highly competent group of players under new coach Stuart Lancaster.

In the first test, South Africa had the advantage owing to an element of surprise, as it was the first game of the Heyneke Meyer era. The English will now have had a taste of the Springboks’ approach.

England would not have been able to do much analysis, whereas South Africa had the whole Six Nations and the Barbarians game to analyse.

It will be interesting to see what England come up with this week to counter the Boks’ gameplan.

Feel free to add a comment or question below and I’ll tackle the most interesting ones.

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