Every year is important in South African rugby‚ but after the disappointment of last year‚ 2017 looms as a vital season for the sport.
Here are some key dates to look out for in the coming months.
Although an exact date has not been set‚ the next meeting of Super Rugby’s coaches with SA Rugby and the Springbok hierarchy will happen before the end of the month.
It’s a vital continuation of the coaches’ indaba process that started late last year.
This month will also see finality on the review process into Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s first year in charge and whether he will be sacked or not.
SA Rugby have said that a final decision will be made before the end of the month.
The Hong Kong Sevens is the crown jewel of the World Sevens Series and the oldest most prestigious tournament on the circuit.
It’s also the only title the Blitzboks have not won.
Coach Neil Powell has targeted winning in Hong Kong as a priority.
After their superb start to the 2016/17 campaign – winning in Dubai and finishing runners-up in Cape Town – the Blitzboks are well set to gain that elusive Hong Kong title.
Springboks vs. France at Loftus Versfeld
The first Test of the 2017 season will be vital for several reasons.
It’s the first of the three-Test series against France‚ and three Test series’ are often defined by the outcome of the first Test winner.
It’s also the Boks first Test after the abysmal 2016 season.
They are currently on a four-Test losing streak.
If they lose five in row it would be the first time since 2006 that has happened and only the fourth time in the Boks’ history that they would have lost five times in a row.
If Coetzee is still the coach the match is massive as he tries to save his reputation and career.
If there is a new man in charge of the Boks it would be equally important as he tries to start off on a winning note and set a positive tone for the rest of the season.
July 15-Super Rugby’s final Pool matches
The Bulls against the Stormers and the Sharks versus the Lions on the final weekend of Pool play could go a long way to deciding the play-off places for South Africa’s teams in the tournament.
The Bulls and the Stormers battled it out in the Africa conference 1 last season and they are likely to do the same this year.
The Sharks and the Lions are also headed for a showdown to finish top of Africa conference 2.
The Cheetahs and Jaguares might be spoilers but those final two matches will have ramifications for the entire conference.
All Blacks vs. Springboks‚ Auckland
The Boks haven’t won in Auckland since 1937 and they have fallen way behind the reigning World Cup winners and Rugby Championship title holders in recent seasons.
The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since 1994 (although they play the British & Irish Lions twice in Auckland in June 2017)‚ making it a formidable battle for the Boks.
It will also be a chance to measure if the Boks have improved or if their slide continues.