Where: Twickenham Stadium, London

When: Saturday, June 22

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It is almost time for the return of international rugby union. While some players—Antoine Dupont, for example—have their eyes set on the Paris Olympics’ 7s completion, those who have stuck to the 15-man format will be looking to impress during that traditional June/ July tournament in the Southern Hemisphere.

The two main tours of interest will be Ireland in South Africa and England in New Zealand. The Irish will play two Tests in South Africa, in Pretoria on July 6 and then in Durban on July 13. Before those matches, the Springboks are scheduled to play a friendly against Wales at the home of English rugby on Jun 22. We will have a match preview up late next week, but here is an early look at what to expect when the Welsh face the ‘Boks.

Rassie’s Return

The biggest storyline heading into this one-off, neutral ground fixture is Rassie Erasmus’s return as the Boks’ head coach. Jacques Nienaber left the role after winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France and took over at perennial URC contenders Leinster in December. Neinaber left the gig with a 69% win rate, blaming 27 victories from his 39 games in charge dating back to 2020.

The coaching search saw the ‘Boks turn back to a familiar face in Rassie Erasmus. Erasmus won the World Cup with the ‘Boks as head coach in 2019, posting 17 times from his 26 matches in charge for a win rate of 65%. There will be little time for sentiment, with the upcoming two-Test series against an Irish team ranked No. 2 in the World Rankings behind only the ‘Boks sure to be an instant test of Rassie’s return.

Player Availability

The beginning of Earasmus’ second stint will dominate the headlines, but player availability is the biggest question coming into this Test.

This match falls outside of a mandated international window and will be played on the same day as the URC final. The Bulls have made it to the semi-final of that tournament, where they will face (ironically) Leinster in Pretoria on June 15. It is unlikely any Bulls players will feature for South Africa against Wales. The same goes for any Leinster, Mubster, or Glasgow Warriors players who could make the squad.

If those who played in the quarter-finals are omitted, then players from the Stomers and a massive Welsh contingent from the Ospreys would also be missing.

Good Memories

Many questions were being thrown at the ‘Boks as they prepared to defend their World Cup trophy last year. Many of those questions disappeared when they dismantled the mighty All Blacks 35-7 at Twickenham last year, a win that was a pure sign of intent heading to France. South Africa brutalized New Zealand with the 7-1 bench split between forwards and backs, something we might see again here, knowing that Ireland is waiting in the wings.

The Boks also have a good recent memory of playing Wales. In a World Cup warm-up match, they smashed the Welsh 52-16 last year in Cardiff. Warren Gatland is working to rebuild Wales with a young squad after much of their old guard retired in the last couple of years. This will be a huge opportunity for this new-look Wales side to show they are a nation on the rise.


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