The Springboks, fresh off their best Rugby Championship showing in years, embark on their Year end Tour to the north, full of confidence.
In a season where they’ve beaten England in a series, produced the miracle of Wellington and narrowly lost to the All Blacks in a game they dominated, they now face possibly their most taxing challenge yet.
Four games in four weeks, is challenging enough. But when it comes at the end of a long year, it’s multiplied. I preview their objectives, and what is to be achieved to deem this tour a success.
England: The momentum is certainly with the Boks. Our recent record against them is superb, and our record at Twickenham in recent years, has been impeccable. However, this will be a different test altogether.
England, hurting after losing a series on these shores, after publicly claiming a series whitewash was possible, will come out steaming.
First match of their season, full Twickenham, and with the knowledge that they have the All Blacks afterwards, they will target this as a must win. Rassie has up to 5 regular starters missing this week, but the return of Sbu Nkosi and Duane Vermeulen offsets that a bit.
I fully expect England to ditch the run from a areas approach of the June internationals, and be more streetwise in their approach. Elliot Daly, Henry Slade and Owen Farrell are intelligent players and will look to orchestrate things. Results wise, the Boks are more than good enough to win. However, I think we’ll be caught cold in our opening game, and England will win by 5.
France: They’re enigmas, the French. You genuinely don’t know which side will pitch up.
They’ve been horrendous the last couple of years, and yet they’re well capable of drawing their collective resolve and getting results. Very unlucky in New Zealand in June, where refereeing decisions cost them dearly.
They played their best rugby in years and seem to have gone back to a traditional style of champagne rugby. Having said that, the Boks will win this one, at a canter.
Our players will have been released from their clubs by then, and Rassie will pick his strongest 23. Fully expect the Boks to take this one by 10 plus points.
Scotland: Ahh, the brave Scots. They’ve been breathing fire in recent years, but a Wallaby thrashing aside, they always fell short of a statement win, as they usually do.
Ran the All Blacks close last year, and defeated England in the Six Nations. In Stuart Hogg they have one of the best fullbacks in world rugby, and South Africans will know Huw Jones extremely well from his time in the Cape.
I expect Rassie to shuffle the pack for this one, and maybe a couple of debuts? The Boks will win this one. The margin depends on the conditions. If it’s miserable at Murrayfield, expect a arm wrestle. But if the day dawns clear and crisp, expect the Boks to win by 15 plus.
Wales: The men from the valleys have been a thorn in our side for a while now. They’ve slowly begun gathering belief that they can beat us, and their recent record attests to that fact.
We owe them a big one. This will be our toughest test, simply because it comes at the end of a long year and inevitably one foot will be on the plane. Rassie will play his strongest 23, after resting some the week before, and expect us to come at them full tilt.
The Welsh have been beset by injuries to key players and they’ve lost inspirational captain Sam Warburton to retirement. The Boks will win this one, and end a positive year on a great note. 7 plus.
Overall I expect this to be a successful tour. Three wins out of four would be outstanding and grow our squad depth.
My hopes and objectives for this tour is for a scrumhalf to put his hand up and really challenge Faf de Klerk for the jersey.
Young kids like Damian Willemse and JD Schickerling have a chance to establish themselves. Also, no injuries please.
In World Cup season, the last thing we need is key players in rehabilitation centres around the country.