Next up for the Springboks: From famine to feast
SPOTLIGHT: South Africa will immediately put the series victory over the British and Irish Lions behind them and shift their focus to the Rugby Championship.
After 19 months of COVID-19-induced isolation – playing only some domestic rugby and watching the rest of the world get on with it – the Springboks finally got a chance to show why they are World Cup winners and the No.1 ranked team.
They did so by coming from behind and secure a deserved 2-1 series triumph over the B&I Lions this weekend.
Now, after a Test famine, they go into a feast – with Rugby Championship matches against Argentina on the next two weekends.
Both will be played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, as Los Pumas cannot host internationals because of the COVID-19 situation in the South American country.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said they have already done their ‘homework’ on Argentina – having known for some time they are going from one Test series straight into another competition.
“The analyses [on Los Pumas] has already been done,” Nienaber told a virtual media briefing – in the aftermath of their dramatic series win over the B&I Lions.
“We know Argentina is a tough team to face.
“Since [Rassie Erasmus and myself joined the Boks in] 2018 there were two teams that put us away and Argentina was one of those,” he said of Los Pumas’ 32-19 triumph over the Boks at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, in August 2018.
The other significant loss since the Nienaber-Erasmus partnership took over in 2018 was the Boks’ opening match of the 2019 World Cup – when New Zealand won 23-13 at the International Stadium in Yokohama in September 2019.
“We will enjoy this [B&I Lions] win, but tomorrow [Monday] we switch our focus to Argentina,” the Bok coach added.
Then, after having played five Tests in as many weeks, the Springboks take a three-week break before a daunting Australasian tour.
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Because of the pandemic, South Africa will play their Championship matches against Australia and arch-rivals New Zealand in those countries instead of the traditional home and away fixtures.
The Wallabies appear to have made some progress under coach Dave Rennie, while New Zealand will be champing at the bit to take down the world champions.
The All Blacks, after beating the Boks in their pool match at the 2019 World Cup, lost in the semifinals to England, who were well beaten by South Africa in the Final a week later.
New Zealand coach Ian Foster has been critical of the Springboks’ structured and methodical game plan.
“It puts me to sleep,” he said after the Boks’ 27-9 (two tries to nil) win over the Lions in 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.”
No doubt his ‘all-action’ game will be put to the test against the Boks’ stout defence in September.
And the ever astute SA Director of Rugby may just pin those comments on the team room and change room walls.
The Rugby Championship ends on October 2 and one month later South Africa will be in Britain for internationals against Wales, Scotland and England.
Wales were on a four-Test victory run against the Boks before Nienaber and Erasmus took over – beating the Warren Gatland-coached Wales in the 2019 World Cup semifinals.
England beat the Boks twice in 2018 – 25-10 at Newlands in June and 12-11 at Twickenham in November.
South Africa roster for the rest of 2021
August 14: Argentina, Port Elizabeth
August 21: Argentina, Port Elizabeth
September 12: Australia, Sydney
September 18: Australia, Brisbane
September 25: New Zealand, Dunedin
October 2: New Zealand, Auckland
November 6: Wales, Cardiff
November 13: Scotland, Edinburgh
November 20: England, London
* Picture credit: Orton Media Photo