A depleted and embattled Springbok side will struggle to succeed in Europe and finish 2016 with a win record in excess of 50%, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Here are the facts according to SA Rugby: A large number of Bok players are either injured or unavailable for the matches against the Barbarians, England, Italy, and Wales this November.
Bismarck du Plessis, Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Julian Redelinghuys, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel, Marcell Coetzee, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Cobus Reinach, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein and Lwazi Mvovo are all out injured. Jannie du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger are unavailable.
That's almost an entire 23-man squad. If we take this injury list as well as the Boks' recent form into account, our expectations should be tempered ahead of a testing tour to the northern hemisphere.
Thus far, the Boks have won four of their nine Tests in 2016 for a win record of 44%. If they fail to win at least two Tests this November, they will finish the season with win record of less than 50%. The Boks have recorded an annual return of less than 50% only twice in the professional era (45% in 2002 and 42% in 2006).
Heyneke Meyer achieved a seven-from-12 record (58%) in his first year as Bok coach (although his side also secured two draws in that 2012 season). Other Bok coaches in the professional era have had varying degrees of success: Peter de Villiers (71% in 2008), Jake White (71% in 2004), Rudolf Straeuli (45% in 2002), Harry Viljoen (50% between 12 November 2000 and 10 November 2001) Nick Mallett (100% between 8 November 1997 and 13 November 1998), Carel du Plessis (38% between 10 June and 23 August 1997) and André Markgraaf (62% in 1996).
Three Test victories this November will see the Boks finishing the season with a 58% win record. Two will take them to 50%, and one to 42%. Three losses will see Allister Coetzee ranking even lower than Du Plessis in the South African coaches' hall of shame, with a win record of 33% in his first year.
THE TOUR AT A GLANCE
Boks vs Barbarians: 5 November, Wembley
Coetzee cannot afford to take this game lightly. Robbie Deans and Will Greenwood have been tasked with coaching a BaaBaas side that features many Kiwis and Australians who excelled during the 2016 Super Rugby tournament. In terms of selections, Coetzee needs to look ahead to the first Test of the tour against England. The Boks will still be hurting after the 57-15 loss to the All Blacks. The strongest available combination should start against the Barbarians and build up some confidence ahead of the tour-defining clash with England. A number of young and inexperienced players look set to feature in any case, given the Boks' lengthy injury list.
Boks vs England: 12 November, Twickenham
Coetzee's Boks have already made history for all the wrong reasons in 2016. If they go down at Twickenham this November, they will become the first Bok side to lose to England in 10 years. Since the World Cup, an Eddie Jones-inspired England have swept to a Six Nations Grand Slam as well as a 3-0 series win in Australia. While they have suffered personnel losses in recent months, the spine of their side remains intact if one considers that Chris Robshaw, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Dan Cole, and the Vunipola brothers are fit and available. It's going to take something special for this Bok side to leave Twickenham with a win.
Boks vs Italy: 19 November, Florence
Surely the Boks can't lose to Italy? The Azzurri lost all of their Six Nations matches this year, and barely managed to beat USA and Canada in June. The Boks, however, battled to put Italy away in Padua two years ago. Coetzee's charges, who may be further depleted after a bruising encounter with England, will need to work for a positive result in Florence.
Boks vs Wales: 26 November, Millennium Stadium
Coach Warren Gatland, the mastermind of Wales' monumental win over the Boks in 2014, won't be at the helm during the Dragons' campaign this November. Yet, stand-in Rob Howley has picked a powerful Wales squad that features world-class players such as Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and several others. This group of Welsh players knows how to beat the Boks, having claimed a rare win against South Africa in Cardiff two years ago. The hosts will be favourites in a match against a Bok side that may be battling with injuries and fatigue at the end of a long season.
Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP