Despite losing a number of their best players to injury, the Springboks are looking forward to what promises to be three weeks of tough Test rugby as they started their preparation in Cape Town.
The Boks will face Ireland in Dublin (10 November), Scotland in Edinburgh (17 November) and England in London (24 November) on the Castle Outgoing Tour.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer selected 31 players for the tour and most of them gathered in Cape Town on Wednesday to start preparations for the trip.
Apart from getting themselves kitted out in nice new Canterbury gear, they also had to take some photos, had a video session and their first training run at DHL Newlands.
Upon arrival at the stadium, some jokes were heard from the back of the bus about the trophy cabinet, which is now not so empty any more, after DHL Western Province won the Vodacom Cup, Absa U19 Championship and the Absa Currie Cup – for the first time since 2001.
The Boks had a good run at Newlands and it was clear to see that they were happy to be back in camp. The only real new guy, 19-year-old Raymond Rhule, got stuck in immediately and enjoyed every moment.
Team doctor Craig Roberts said that although the high number of injuries is a concern, everyone getting on the plane to Heathrow on Saturday evening should be fit to play in the first Test.
“There were concerns about Adriaan Strauss’ knee and Francois Louw’s neck, but they are both fine at this stage. The same goes for Jean de Villiers, who recently injured his hamstring. We’ll make sure the players are properly managed on the tour,” said Roberts.
Meyer also said he was concerned about all the injuries. Most recently, Bryan Habana was ruled out of the tour with a knee injury, while the list of injured players that had been part of the Springbok squad thus far this year, but were not considered for selection, include Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Tiaan Liebenberg, Andries Bekker, Siya Kolisi, Jacques Potgieter, Pierre Spies, Johan Goosen and Frans Steyn. Furthermore, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brüssow are still out injured.
“It’s not an ideal situation and obviously I’m worried about all the injuries. This was always going to be a tough tour and considering all the injured players we’re missing, it will be even tougher,” said Meyer.
“We want to build on what we’ve done this season but when you have new players coming into the group you have to go back to basics.
“Just look at our backline – imagine if we had Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie, who are both unavailable because of club commitments in Japan, as well as Frans Steyn and Bryan Habana. That would’ve been a very experienced backline and one I won’t mind picking one day.”
“We’re going to use this tour to give a young side the opportunity to experience northern hemisphere conditions in advance of the 2015 World Cup. It's a different type of game up there and you want to see which guys can play away from home and which are mentally tough to tour. After this year I'll know exactly who are the players going forward."
The Boks had two training sessions in Cape Town on Thursday before they attended the SARU Rugby Player of the Year Awards, where a number of the players in the squad were nominated in the various categories, most notably Eben Etzebeth, who got three nominations.
They will train again on Friday, make a visit to SARU’s new offices and then go home for one last night with their loved ones before the tour kicks off on Saturday.