The announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa later in the year caused a stir, with many Springbok fans making bold statements about the Green and Golds chances against the men in red. Springbok fans for the most part believe the Lions squad is weaker then expected as some of the bigger units available to Warren Gatland were left behind.
The likes of Billy Vunipola, CJ Stander and Manu Tuilagi to name a few are notable omissions and surprisingly so given the Springboks known ability to front up physically. Some journalists have gone as far as to poke fun at the selection of the likes of Hamish Watson and Sam Simmonds. However, is the hype around the Bok's chance really justifiable?
It is no secret that the Springboks last played in the November 2nd 2019 World Cup final, the side having failed to make a test appearance in a tumultuous 2020, which saw too much red tape in allowing the team to tour for the Rugby Championship and outgoing tours. Fans will keenly remember their dominant display in the tactical dismantling of England, but with 18 months having lapsed, the side will be markedly different.
Ex All Black fullback Ben Smith recently pointed out that the Springboks are not the world beaters they are viewed as and notably said the side would need to perform against the Lions to really justify themselves as the top ranked side at the moment. Whilst the team won a World Cup, the two years under Rassie Erasmus can't erase the poor performances of 2016 and 2017 which saw the team close to collapse.
The Springboks need to send out a message to the Rugby World that they really are a consistently strong side and the only way to do that is to win the Lions series, followed up by the Rugby Championship and end of year tour. The team is set to face warm up tests against Georgia in preparation for the Lions series and will need to hit the ground running if they are to build the same team cohesion that saw them win the World Cup two years ago.
New head coach Jacques Nienaber will know all too well the challenges that lay before him and will be doing everything in his power to ensure his charges are primed and ready to front up to the best of the North when they meet face to face in July.