Undercooked Boks can still roar against British and Irish Lions
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CAPE TOWN – Given the lack of preparation the Springboks have had going into their three-Test Series against the British & Irish Lions, a series victory might seem unlikely – but so did the World Cup triumph back in 2019.
Simply put, the South Africans can – and will – pull off an against-the-odds triumph against the Lions.
It’s been far from easy. In fact, the Boks’ preparation for the series, with all the interruptions, has been downright frustrating.
By the time the Lions meet the Boks in the first Test at Cape Town Stadium next Saturday, they will have faced the Sharks (twice), Stormers, local Lions, and the SA A side.
They also played a historic warm-up game against Japan before touching down in SA – the first time ever Japan have faced the Lions.
Then you have the Boks, a group that went through a Test rugby drought of 20 months after winning the World Cup in stunning style in Japan.
But that glorious feat was the last time the South Africans laced up for an international fixture, until they faced Georgia in what was supposed to be the first of two matches against Lelos in preparation for the Lions series.
Their match against Georgia on July 2 marked 20 months to the day they won the World Cup. And the second warm-up against the Georgians was much, much needed considering the next-to-no rugby head coach Jacques Nienaber’s men had played as a group over the last two years.
But in the end, the Boks only played one game against Georgia as both squads reported positive Covid-19 cases in their camps ahead of the second Test.
So, as was to be expected, SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus – who has taken charge as Nienaber is still isolating since testing positive for Covid-19 – named a full-strength SA A side for tonight’s meeting with the Lions at Cape Town Stadium (8pm kickoff).
Yes, the Bok players, as individuals, have played a fair amount of rugby since their rise to world champions in Japan.
On the domestic front, the Super Rugby Unlocked, Currie Cup, Preparation Series and the Rainbow Cup SA took place, while the overseas-based Boks were also been keeping match fit with their respective clubs.
But while the South Africans have been lacking in Test rugby and playing as a unit, the Lions and their respective national teams haven’t had that issue.
So, considering the huge disparity there has been in terms of solid international preparation, you wouldn’t be blamed for betting against the Boks on this one. I mean, they will be undercooked, and they’ll most likely take a while to gel.
But their World Cup campaign in 2019 was no breeze either, thanks to that opening loss to New Zealand. And, going into the final against an England side that humbled the All Blacks the week before, SA certainly weren’t the favourites going into the final.
Yet, look what they did. The Boks, against all odds, became world champions.
Will the Lions be at an advantage going into the series? For sure.
But you can’t write the Boks off. In fact, expect them to come out on top against Warren Gatland’s team despite being in an unfavourable situation ahead of the series.
They’ve shown the world that they can triumph despite adversity before, and they will do it again …