SARU Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus had pleaded with the British & Irish Lions for a re-run of Wednesdays clash on Saturday in order to better prepare the national side, this was not to be. Instead, the Blue Bulls were announced as opponents for the SA "A" side on Saturday in order to assist with preparations. The Pretoria based side ultimately came out victorious, winning the match 17 - 14 after overcoming a 14 - 0 half time deficit.
The SA "A" side that took to the pitch on Saturday was markedly different from that which featured on Wednesday, albeit, featuring 9 World Cup winners. Very few of the players are in line for test selection which begs the question, what was the point of this all?
Damian De Allende, Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Vincent Koch and Kwagga Smith were in the run on side, with the likes of Sbu Nkosi and Jessie Kriel on the bench. Outside of this, it is likely that only Rynhardt Elstadt and Aphelele Fassi are in the selection frame for the 1st test, set for this coming Saturday.
Whilst there is merit to the argument that the fixture allowed for fringe members to get some game time and to put their hand up for selection, very few players actually achieved this. I may be naïve but I highly doubt Jacques Nienaber is going to stray too far from his tried and tested old guard for this series, even with question marks over some players fitness. If this fixture was to assist in the Springboks preparation, why didn't more of the likely starting side feature?
On a more positive note, the game against Georgia and the game against the Blue Bulls has revealed a new understudy to the incumbent Willie le Roux. Aphelele Fassi has come on in leaps and bounds and has shown immense growth in the Springbok setup. He has proved to be effective on the counter attack and his pace will be a huge asset to the Boks going forward. If Willie's hamstring strain hinders his selection for the 1st test, Fassi has done enough to warrant selection in his stead.
It is worrying that the starting Springbok Saturday for Saturday will have had very little game time together and it is still unclear as to which squad members will be available after the outbreak in the team. Regardless though, the 23 players selected will have everything to play for and will relish this once in a lifetime opportunity to topple the best Europe has to offer.
Be that as it may, all the talking has been done and all the preparation and warm up fixtures disposed of, now comes the chance to prove it all. There is no doubt that the circumstances of the tour have been challenging, but the Springboks now need to front up and prove to the rugby world, why they are ranked number 1.