A South Africa A side is set to take on the British & Irish Lions on 14 July. Editor CRAIG LEWIS turns selector and picks a team to face the tourists.
This mid-week tour game will serve as the penultimate warm-up match, with the Lions facing the Stormers on 17 July, while the first Test will take place a week later.
It’s expected that the Boks will call an enlarged squad of nearly 50 players into camp, while it will be interesting to see exactly how the dynamics of the Covid-19 bubble will work.
The Springboks will also have two warm-up games against Georgia in July, with many of the frontline and fringe players set to prepare for battle against the Lions during this two-Test series.
With this in mind, and for the purposes of this column, I’ve opted for these two primary selection criteria for the SA A side: selecting only locally based players, and prioritising combinations familiar with each other.
Here is an SA A team that could offer a competitive showing, while complementing the Springboks’ preparations:
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ox Nche.
For a team that would have been brought together with limited preparation time, familiar combinations can be seen throughout this team.
Sharks duo Fassi and Penxe slot into a high-speed back three along with Madosh Tambwe, who spent a couple of seasons in Durban before recently heading to the Bulls, where he has been in sensational form.
Odendaal and Simelane would form an all-Lions midfield combination of both bruising physicality and dynamic attack, respectively, while Hendrikse and Bosch are an increasingly familiar halfback pairing.
Among the forwards, I’d have opted for Sikhumbuzo Notshe at No 8 if not for his unfortunate injury, but there is an opportunity to keep combinations franchise based with Botha, Louw and Van Staden presenting a dynamic back row.
Orie and Schickerling have been part of national set-ups in the past, with the latter a strong contender for a call-up to the Bok squad should someone like Lood de Jager fail to recover from injury in time.
In a powerful front row, Nche and Du Toit would have an opportunity to continue promoting their cause for Springbok consideration, while talented Richardson is undoubtedly a future Springbok, and would pose another threat at the breakdown.
The full Lions series schedule is:
- Saturday, 3 July: Emirates Lions vs British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST)
- Wednesday, 7 July: Cell C Sharks vs British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 8pm (SAT)/7pm (BST)
- Saturday, 10 July: Vodacom Bulls vs British & Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST)
- Wednesday, 14 July: South Africa A vs British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 8pm (SAT)/7pm (BST)
- Saturday, 17 July: DHL Stormers vs British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST)
- Saturday, 24 July: Springboks vs British & Irish Lions (1st Test, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST)
- Saturday, 31 July: Springboks vs British & Irish Lions (2nd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST)
- Saturday, 7 Aug: Springboks vs British & Irish Lions (3rd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 6pm (SAT)/5pm (BST).