Johannesburg — It is true that the Springboks will be in action against England this weekend, but there will also be the business of a resumed United Rugby Championship to look forward to.
All the South African franchises — the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers — will be in action from Friday onwards as they host the Ospreys, Dragons, Cardiff and Scarlets, respectively.
They will do so after a month-long hiatus from the tournament, which afforded the Tests to play in the northern hemisphere.
While not speaking for the rest of the SA teams, Stormers assistant coach Norman Laker revealed that the recent break has done the Cape-based side only good, and one can imagine that will be true of the other franchises, too.
“It was a nice break and it was well-deserved after our start and several games on the trot,” Laker said on Monday.
“We went on tour and then we went to the Lions, so it was actually a four-week tour that we had. It was a decent break for the players – they put in a lot of work over the last few weeks.
“Everyone is happy to be back and we are getting ready to go again on Friday evening (when they face Scarlets).”
Like the Stormers, the Bulls and Sharks will not be at full strength this weekend as each team has a handful of players completing Bok duty outside of the regulated Test window against England.
For the Stormers that includes Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff, Mane Libbok, Frans Malherbe, Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie, Evan Roos and Damian Willemse. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who played for the SA A side, might also not be available.
The Sharks will have to contend with a similar test of depth – Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Bok captain Siya Kolisi, Makazole Mapimpi, Bongi Mbonanmbi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ox Nche, Grant Williams and Thomas du Toit will not be available.
The Bulls, meanwhile, will have to do without the services of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Goosen and Marco van Staden, while the Lions — still winless at home this season — should be able to select from their full complement of players, injuries notwithstanding.
Nevertheless, Laker is confident that the Stormers have the personnel to overcome a much-improved Scarlets outfit, and that might well be true of their fellow South African counterparts as well
“The guys that we have available are just as good,” Laker said.
“They might not have the experience, but they are very good guys that we have. We have been working with them over the last couple of years.
“These are guys that have put up their hands in training, they have some games under their belt, so it will be nice to see what they are capable of and what they bring to the party.”
After this weekend, the Boks are not expected to return immediately to their respective URC sides. Indeed, they might also miss the Champions Cup – set to start on the weekend of December 10.
Moreover, as pointed out by Laker, it might take some time for them to gel with their teams again.
“The Boks have played a lot of rugby and there will be some guys that will need a rest. We will speak to the players and we will manage the guys to make sure we get the best out of them when they come back,” he said.
It seems then, that SA teams will have to rely on their strengths in numbers for the coming weeks.
URC SA fixtures
Friday: Stormers v Scarlets @ Cape Town Stadium, 7pm
Saturday: Bulls v Ospreys @ Loftus Versfeld, 3pm
Sunday: Lions v Dragons @ Emirates Airline Park, 4pm; Sharks v Cardiff Rugby @ Hollywoodbest Kings Park, 6pm