The Springboks will be playing against Ireland, England, Italy and Wales and will be in action from November 8-29. The final Test, against Wales in Cardiff, will be played without any overseas-based players, but from the first-choice 23 that only rules out Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the tour will be whether the Springboks can adapt the fast-paced game they seemed to have mastered by beating the All Blacks in their last match to the heavier fields of Europe. It’s important to remember that this is a dress rehearsal for the World Cup because it’s the last time South Africa will play in the United Kingdom before that showpiece tournament starts next September, so there will be limited experimentation.
I’m looking forward to Lwazi Mvovo getting a run on the wing in that Test against Wales, which could also see Western Province flyer and former Springbok Sevens star Seabelo Senatla on the bench as he embarks on the next step of what will surely be a stellar international career.
After all the speculation and comments before the game against New Zealand, there’s no doubt Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje was on trial at Ellis Park and he came through with flying colours with a great all-round display. After plying his trade on the University of the Free State fields a year ago, he can now look forward to strutting his stuff on the famous turf of Twickenham, Lansdowne Road and the Millenium Stadium.
Trevor Nyakane should also be on the bench as cover for the estimable Tendai Mtawarira, while the third hooker behind Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss will surely be either Scarra Ntubeni or Bongi Mbonambi now that Schalk Brits is out injured.
The total number of players of colour should be 11 as the Springboks slowly but surely move towards properly representing the demographics of South Africa.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has held his cards close to his chest, but what he has divulged is that the selectors met two weeks ago to discuss the squad so brilliant displays out of the blue in the Currie Cup knockout rounds are unlikely to influence the composition of the squad. The fact that the squad will be announced on Monday and not directly after the Currie Cup final is further indication that Meyer wants to move away from selections based on a fortnight of brilliance.
Nevertheless, he could well want to gather more information on key Lions players like Jaco Kriel, Julian Redelinghuys, Schalk van der Merwe, Ruan Dreyer and Marnitz Boshoff.
He has already gathered some insight into the likes of Senatla, Rudy Paige, Nizaam Carr and Mbonambi at training camps in the last month and they are all in line for their first Springbok call-ups.
Questions that Meyer will also look to get answered during the tour are:
- Is Handre Pollard still the best choice at flyhalf when conditions call for a more tactical game?;
- if Ruan Pienaar is still struggling with injury, who is the next best scrumhalf?;
- What is the best loose trio balance, both starting and on the bench?;
- What depth exists at tighthead prop and outside centre?;
- If Willie le Roux gets injured, who plays fullback?
Possible Springbok squad: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Damien de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Seabelo Senatla, Handre Pollard, Pat Lambie, Morne Steyn/Marnitz Boshoff, Francois Hougaard, Cobus Reinach, Ruan Pienaar/Rudy Paige, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley, Nizaam Carr, Teboho Mohoje, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Schalk Burger, Jaco Kriel, Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Julian Redelinghuys, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni/Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk van der Merwe, Ruan Dreyer/Lourens Adriaanse.