The Bulls and Lions will be the least affected teams for their tour matches against the British & Irish Lions. Covid protocols means those players in the Springboks national squad cannot be released for the provincial tour matches. They have to remain in the Springboks bio-bubble.
The situation is an uncontrollable because of Covid, but it does provide South Africa’s emerging provincial talent with the playing opportunity of their careers and, for some, the springboard to future national selection.
It is all to play for when it comes to the provincial matches, and while the Lions will use these four matches to settle on their match 23 for the first Test, each provincial squad will be looking to create their own history. It doesn’t get bigger, in terms of prestige, for South Africa’s four primary provincial contenders.
The 1997 Bulls are the only South African provincial team to have beaten the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in the professional era and the only South African provincial team to have had success against the Lions since the end of the 1968 tour to South Africa.
Jake White’s Bulls are the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup champions and are currently leading the league in the Rainbow Cup SA. Only five of his squad have been attending the Springboks alignment camps and all five, which includes World Cup starting No 8 Duane Vermeulen, will be among the Springbok squad of 45 named on Saturday, 5th June.
The Boks will play Georgia in two Friday night Tests on 2nd and 9th July and those players (outside of the Springboks match 23), will remain with the squad to prepare for the Lions three-Test series.
It is probable that the SA ‘A’ team that plays the Lions in Cape Town in the midweek match preceding the first Test in Cape Town on 24th July, will largely come from those fringe players originally selected in the greater Springbok squad.
The Lions, like the Bulls, are likely to have negligible national squad call-ups, and the Bok squad will primarily be made up of seasoned Test players from the Sharks, Stormers and World Cup winners who are based overseas. There is likely to be a sprinkling from the other South African domestic teams.
Also on www.keo.co.za