Don’t underestimate the World Cup connection in restoring the Springboks imbalance of not having played a Test in nearly two years. World Cup winner Faf de Klerk believes the World Cup-winning chemistry will be strong enough to inspire the Boks to a series win against the British & Irish Lions, writes Mark Keohane.
De Klerk and his Sales Sharks South African Springboks linked up with the national squad in Bloemfontein after their semi-final defeat in the English Premiership.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if there wasn’t enough love already for the World Cup winning Springboks in 2019, the love is tangible as the world champions prepare to play for the first time since winning the World Cup in Japan more than 18 months ago
The love especially is big within the squad.
‘Probably the main thing that will remain with me is the group we were at the World Cup,’ De Klerk was quoted in a Daily Mail interview.
‘And there is a majority of that group still in the squad for the Lions series. The connection we had throughout that World Cup, and even before that, is going to help us a lot.
‘Even if we haven’t been together for almost two years, we are going to draw a lot on that, and I think it will probably click very quickly just because of the amount of time we spent together, the stuff we went through.
‘Obviously, there are a few new lads in there as well that are going to add energy and value, and I think the bonds we’ve built over that period of time is probably going to be our main go-to.’
Georgia will be the first nation to play the world champion Springboks in a two-Test series that will take place on two successive Friday evenings, at Loftus on 2nd July and at Emirates Airline Park on the 9th July. This has been structured so as not to clash with the British & Irish Lions tour matches against the (South African) Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday, 3rd July and against the Bulls at Loftus on the 10th of July.
The Lions, who also play the Sharks in Johannesburg on the 7th July, will play two further matches at Cape Town Stadium on the 13th and 17th of July before tackling the challenge of the Springboks in the first of three Tests at the Cape Town Stadium.
There will be a familiarity for the Lions in playing at Cape Town Stadium for a third successive time because many among the Springboks have never played a match at the Cape Town Stadium. The Springboks, as a team, have never played at the Cape Town Stadium.
After the long Covid-enforced absence, the Boks will finally get to play Test rugby again and Georgia provides the perfect build-up to the Lions series. The Boks won’t lose to Georgia, but they will know they have been in a Test match. Outside of the Springboks, Georgia boast one of the biggest packs and it will be a good old traditional bruising battle up front.
Georgia’s backs have never had the presence of their forwards, but these will be two very good hit-outs for the Springboks, and as Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said, he will pick his strongest available line-up for the two Tests against Georgia.
Don’t expect too much experimentation and tweaking of the squad who won South Africa the World Cup. None of them will be picked on reputation, as they have been the form players overseas and in South Africa’s various domestic competitions.
The Lions, who play Japan at Murrayfield this weekend, will have the bulk of their squad available for selection, with just four Lions players involved in the English Premiership final and none taking part in the French Top 14 final. None of Nienaber’s Bok squad will play in the English final either and it is only Toulouse winger Cheslin Kolbe and loose-forward Rynardt Elstadt who will play in the Top 14 final.
The Bok duo are the only players still to link up with Nienaber’s Boks, who have been in camp in Bloemfontein for the past fortnight.
The Boks, who in 2018, had five days to prepare for the first Test against England, would have had five weeks to prepare for the Lions, including a two-Test series. The Lions would also have been together for seven weeks before the first Test and have played six matches. Neither side’s coaching staff can have time complaints.
Monday also saw the confirmation of France’s squad for a three-Test series against the Wallabies in Australia. The Top 14 final had prevented several first choice players from touring and French coach Fabian Galthie has named 23 uncapped players in his squad, including some players from the second division.
The All Blacks also named a squad of 36 for Tests against Tonga and Fiji (twice). The Fijian squad, announced a week ago, includes every available overseas-based player.
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