Durban – Let’s cut to the chase, folks. This weekend’s tour finale at Twickenham is the one the Springboks really want, despite the merits of Ireland, France and even Italy.
While it is true that the All Blacks are the Boks’ traditional foe, and always will be, England are a close second, and over the last few years this fixture has ratcheted up a few notches in terms of needle – probably since the infamous Owen Farrell armless charge on Andre Esterhuizen in 2018.
Bok fans will not in a hurry forget Farrell’s fist pump when referee Angus Gardner failed to penalise him – costing the Boks an easy shot at goal to win the game – and those same fans will recall with glee Farrell’s dismay in the World Cup final when Cheslin Kolbe gave him the slip for the match-winning try.
The Boks lost that 2018 game 12-11 and then last year also lost by a single point, 27-26. They also lost at Twickers in 2016 (37-21), which means they last won in the England capital in 2014.
Eight years is a long time between drinks for a win at Twickenham and you can be sure Siya Kolsi’s merry men will empty the tank onto the hallowed turf in a bid to end the drought.
The nine-try annihilation of a plucky Italy team was an ideal warm-up for the occasion and while
England showed they are made of stern stuff by coming back from the dead to draw with the All Blacks at the weekend, the Bok machine is now well-oiled and primed for one last blast for the year.
England had looked terrible for 71 minutes but then scored a flurry of points as the 14-man All Blacks choked, and maybe that result is the right one for the Boks because England probably think they are better than they actually are.
Farrell’s men would have been more dangerous if the score had stayed lopsided in favour of the Kiwis.
This match falls outside the World Rugby international window and so the Boks lose their players based in France and England but keep that Japan-based contingent.
For this reason, coach Jacques Nienaber has called up South Africa ‘A’ props Thomas du Toit and Ntuthuko Mchunu after losing the services of Vincent Koch and Trevor Nyakane.
The pair return to their clubs, Stade Français and Racing 92 respectively, while the Boks will also be without Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) and Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).
Wiese had an industrious game against Italy and will be missed but a like-for-like replacement has been added from the SA ‘A’ squad in burly Marco van Staden, who has played nine Tests under Rassie Erasmus and Nienaber.
The Boks have an excellent supply of loose forwards, including a specialist No 8 in Evan Roos who won his second cap at the weekend when he played off the bench against Italy.
The final player to be called up to the Bok squad for the London week is scrumhalf Grant Williams, who was one of the few SA ‘A’ players to enhance his reputation on their disappointing tour.*
The Boks will welcome back Eben Etzebeth from a rest but the rest of the team is unlikely to change too much. As well as Manie Libbok played as a super sub, Nienaber is usually a conservative selector and will probably keep Damian Willemse at 10, with the versatile Libbok covering many options from the bench
There will also be a change in the midfield because of the loss of Esterhuizen and you can bank on Nienaber picking Jesse Kriel.
With Kolbe gone, Makazole Mapimpi is likely to return on the wing.
Probable starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Franco Mostert, 6
Siya Kolisi (capt), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff