Midweek fixtures lined up for Boks’ year-end tour to Europe
SA Select XV’s game against Bristol Bears will test young players in preparation for the World Cup
The Springboks will play three of the Six Nations’ powerhouses on their four-match end-of-year tour to Europe in November.
The Boks’ Tests have been confirmed with matches against Ireland, France, Italy and England on the roster, while an SA Select XV will clash with the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate in a midweek match.
The tour will be a crucial building block for the Boks as they fine-tune preparations for 2023’s Rugby World Cup in France. Their clashes against Ireland, England and in particular France will provide coach Jacques Nienaber an indicator of where his team is at, less than a year before the defence of their title.
Their clash with France is scheduled for Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, the same venue at which they will kick off their World Cup campaign against Scotland next September. They will also play their final pool match at Stade Vélodrome against an Asia-Pacific qualifier.
The Springboks will kick off their tour against Ireland in Dublin on November 5, followed by the match in Marseille on November 12, before they clash with Italy at a venue on November 19 yet to be disclosed. They will conclude their tour in London against England on November 26.
The SA Select XV will play the Bristol Bears on November 17, but negotiations are under way to arrange two more midweek games.
Rugby bosses should be commended for reintroducing midweek matches on Springbok tours. Those games used to be part of the fabric of long international tours and, apart from providing coaches with the opportunity to test young players in different conditions, greatly enhanced social cohesion in tour parties.
The Boks have not gone on tour with a full roster of midweek matches since they toured Argentina, Wales, Ireland and England under Harry Viljoen in 2000.
“Our traditional year-end tour is taking shape, and the fact that we have confirmed one of the SA Select XV games already is great news,” Nienaber said.
“The SA Select XV games will provide us with a chance to cast our net wider and give players as much game time as possible as the 2023 World Cup in France draws nearer.
“We only have a limited number of matches left before we kick off our World Cup campaign in September next year, and we need to use every opportunity we can to give the players game time to develop our player combinations and build squad depth.”
That objective is particularly critical as the Springboks lost the entire 2020 roster due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have an enlarged squad of 42 players at the moment for the incoming series and will hopefully have an opportunity to see what most of these players can do at international level as they look to throw their names in the hat [for the World Cup].”
Nienaber added that the midweek matches are vital for keeping the players in tune with Bok structures and systems, while providing the opportunity to experience life on tour with the national team. “That is the only way one can build that type of experience.”
Springbok year-end tour fixtures
November 5: SA v Ireland (Aviva Stadium, Dublin)
November 12: SA v France (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
November 17: SA Select XV v Bristol Bears (Ashton Gate, Bristol)
November 19: SA v Italy (venue to be confirmed)
November 26: SA v England (Twickenham, London)