Boks trained at gunpoint

Revealed: Bizarre boot camp

Naked players ordered into freezing lake to pump up rugby balls underwater.


(, 11/16/03)

SPRINGBOK players were forced to strip and were ordered around at gunpoint in a bizarre effort to prepare them for the Rugby World Cup.

Despite being sworn to secrecy, two players have talked about the three-day "Kamp Staaldraad" (Camp Steel Wire) that took place at a location some two hours north of Pretoria in September.

It was the brainchild of team security consultant Adriaan Heijns, who owns a security company.

SA Rugby has confirmed that his firm was paid R120 000 for the three-day camp that started the evening the World Cup squad was announced.

On arrival, they were met by former SA Police Services Task Force members recruited by Heijns. The players were made to strip naked and leopard-crawl across gravel before getting dressed and repeating the exercise.

According to one Springbok, they were then taken into the bush where, between 11.30pm and 6am, they did physical labour, carrying tyres, poles and bags - all branded with England and New Zealand flags. Only those who excelled were allowed food the next morning.

Later, the players were ordered naked into a freezing lake to pump up rugby balls underwater. Players who tried to get out, among them captain Cornéé Krige, were allegedly pointed back in at gunpoint.

Without divulging any details, Krige said in Cape Town on Friday that there were certain parts of the camp that he would recommend not be included in any future rugby training.

"It was trial and error. You go through certain things and decide these are good and these maybe aren't that good. Most of the stuff was really good for team spirit," he said.

But Ken Jennings, a sports psychologist, said yesterday he was "quite horrified" to learn of the activities.

"From a psychological framework, there's absolutely no research showing this treatment would help performance. If we saw a quantum leap in performance, we might say it held some value, but there was no such leap. As to the impact on the individual . . . the consequences might actually be destructive. This [activity] stifles any creative, liberating type of energy. It's a drive towards conformity and total rigidity that is based on the fear factor. It's old-method thinking."

On the second night of the camp, players were dropped off individually in the bush to spend the night on their own. They were each given a chicken, an egg and half a match with which to prepare a meal, which they were told not to eat. The next morning the eggs were broken on players' heads to test if they were cooked.

When players were finally given a chance to sleep, they were woken by gunfire every 15 minutes.

They were also crammed naked into a hole and played the English anthem and New Zealand haka repeatedly and doused with icy water.

On Friday, Heijns said he was under strict instructions not to comment.

Upon the team's return from the World Cup on Monday, coach Rudolf Straeuli responded to comments by former team media officer Mark Keohane by saying: "He wasn't there, go and ask the players, it had great value. He [Keohane] does not know much about scientific training."

Krige said: "Some of the stuff you should never reveal. We were put through mental and physical stuff, but without each other there was no way you could make it through that. . . That is the situation you want because then it doesn't matter . . . the colour or the religion, nothing. You just need your brother next to you to help you through that situation."

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