Toulon – There can be fewer better places for the Springboks to be based during next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Boks will be in Toulon for the tournament, cradled by its mountainous surrounds, historic buildings and old-world charm. The city, located on the Riviera, is a major French naval base.
Look carefully and you can spy the country’s Mediterranean fleet anchored in the picturesque harbour, around which the city has grown since the fourth century BC. The city is enamoured with rugby – look one way or the other, and more often than not you will find something related to the game
Old leather and weathered rugby balls are used as decorations, while jerseys venerating Toulon hang proudly on walls. Bok coach Jacques Nienaber & Co’s eyes certainly won’t suffer, and neither will their preparations in defence of the Webb Ellis Cup.
Had the privilege of visiting the splendid facilities of @RCTofficiel on Wednesday …
Impressive to say the least. The @Springboks will be based here for the Rugby World Cup next year @IOLsport pic.twitter.com/cUFxDRS0dn
— Morgan Bolton (@FreemanZAR) November 10, 2022
On Wednesday, a small group of South Africans were given a tour of the training facilities at the club the Boks will be using while in Toulon. Guided by the club’s executive director Francois Pesenti, it became clear the resources that will be available to the Boks are, in a word, magnificent.
It is a state-of-the-art facility, recently built, and one that makes similar amenities afforded to SA-based players look parochial at best. Modern, sleek, and designed from a holistic point of view that focuses all of its attention on the training field at its centre, it is a statement of intent that has been constructed by the owners of Toulon.
Rest assured, the Boks will have all they need on hand when they travel to Toulon and set themselves up there in 2023. The club is sparing no expense as it endeavours to return to halcyon days, and that includes a €15 million upgrade to the outside training pitch, which will be ready in time for the Boks to use.
But perhaps the most important aspect of this endeavour is the club’s ambition to make these facilities available to the community. These shiny new toys and upgrades are not just for the betterment of the club’s professionals, but rather for the entire city.
SA's sports teams can be somewhat aloof, hiding behind security fences and cavernous and imposing stadiums. Toulon doesn’t see itself in such a role. Instead, it is on a mission to include its supporters in its growth.
The training facilities are for its players, to be sure, but it is also for grassroots development – inviting children from across the province to attend training sessions every Wednesday. That swanky facility shaped around the artificial training field even has its own section dedicated to that mission, with all the equipment and facilities required to aid that development.
Indeed, the Toulon centre is as much a professional arena as it is a community centre, and such thoughtful homogenisation.