The Springboks have had very little game time together as a full strength squad due to a variety of circumstances. They will have nowhere to hide this weekend however as the British & Irish Lions run out to face them. Make no mistake though, the men in Green & Gold have everything to play for and will rely heavily on what head coach Jacques Nienaber refers to as their "superior discontent".
The last time a full strength Bok side was fielded was in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, some 20 months ago. In the last month we saw them hold one fixture against Georgia, with the second then cancelled due to isolation protocols. On Wednesday they faced the Lions under the guise of SA "A" and on Saturday the last of their preparation fixtures was completed against the Blue Bulls.
The 1st test against Georgia featured a full strength forward pack, whilst Wednesdays clash against the Lions featured an almost full strength backline. The two sub sets have yet to appear together in a full fixture, and Saturday will be very telling as to how well prepared they are as a side, with squad cohesion and defensive communication needed on the highest level.
Like many, the Springboks will have noticed the British & Irish Lions weaknesses in the scrums and mauls. They will have paid particular attention to the Stormers performance in stopping the Lions from gaining momentum with the driving maul. The Bok's have always prided themselves on their strength in the set piece and will be hoping to establish their dominance on the game through their scrum.
The Springboks will be looking to their many World Cup winners to bring this first game home, as they look to build throughout the series. A focus on the basics and not straying from their traditional strengths will help them choke the attacking flair out of the Lions side and drag them into Rassie's infamous dark places, instead of the dance floor. There is no doubting the quality of player available to the Boks, my biggest worry is their ability to string it all together after all the interruptions.
There are a number of players who are unavailable still due to isolation protocols, however they will be relieved to have welcomed back the likes of Bongi Mbonambi to the fold on Sunday. Whilst Siya Kolisi, Handre Pollard, Makazole Mapimpi and Frans Steyn are not likely to be available yet. Lukhanyo Am will likely captain the side in Siya's absence after doing a stellar job in the midweek game. If Willie is unable to play due to his hamstring train, Aphelele Fassi should take his place in the last line of defense.
So without further ado, here is my match day 23.
Marco van Staden
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Faf de Klerk
Damian De Allende
Lukhanyo Am (c)
Willie Le Roux