From Test famine to feast for world champion Springboks

After 19 months of coronavirus-induced inactivity, the World Cup-winning Springboks will have little time to celebrate after a 2-1 series triumph over the British & Irish Lions this past weekend.  

A Test famine has been transformed into a feast with Rugby Championship matches against Argentina on the next two weekends.

Both will be played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) as the Pumas cannot host internationals because of the Covid-19 situation in the South American country.

Then, having played five Tests is as many weeks with three against the B&I Lions preceding the two against Argentina, the Springboks take a three-week break before a daunting Australasia tour.

Because of the pandemic, South Africa will play both Championship matches against Australia and arch-rivals New Zealand in those countries instead of the traditional home-and-away fixtures.

The Wallabies are a much-improved side under coach Dave Rennie after plumbing the depths a few seasons ago while New Zealand will be champing at the bit to take down the world champions.

The All Blacks beat the Springboks in the pool stage of the last World Cup only to go out in the semi-finals to England, who were well beaten by South Africa in the final one week later.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster, who succeeded Steve Hansen after a third-place finish at the World Cup in Japan, was not impressed with the Springboks against the Lions.

“It put me to sleep,” was his frank assessment of a second Test that lasted 126 minutes instead of the regulation 80 because of endless stoppages for disciplinary decisions, ‘handbags’ and injuries.

“It has become a very tight, almost risk-free type of series. Teams are almost afraid to play, they are relying on a low-risk strategy.

“So, we are seeing teams who desperately want to win a big series playing low-risk, highly-effective rugby,” said Foster.

One can imagine the ever-innovative South Africa rugby director Rassie Erasmus photostating those comments, pinning them on the change-room door and telling every Springbok to read them.

The Rugby Championship ends on 2 October and one month later South Africa will be in Britain for internationals against Wales, Scotland and England.

Wales won four straight matches against the Springboks before suffering a three-point loss in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals while England triumphed twice against South Africa in 2018.

Springboks’ schedule

Rugby Championship

14 Aug: Argentina, Gqeberha

21 Aug: Argentina, Gqeberha

12 Sept: Australia, Sydney

18 Sept: Australia, Brisbane

25 Sept: New Zealand, Dunedin

2 Oct: New Zealand, Auckland

British tour

6 Nov: Wales, Cardiff

13 Nov: Scotland, Edinburgh

20 Nov: England, London

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

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Dylan Jack