Rassie: Springboks expect Wales to come out ‘guns blazing’

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, seen here lifting the Prince William Cup after last year’s win over Wales, will be hoping to hoist another trophy aloft in June. Photo: Reuters

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, seen here lifting the Prince William Cup after last year’s win over Wales, will be hoping to hoist another trophy aloft in June. Photo: Reuters

Published Feb 22, 2024

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The confirmation yesterday of the Springboks’ season-opening match against Wales at Twickenham on June 22 is good news for the world champions on two counts.

It was against Wales in Cardiff last August when the Bok machine first announced their World Cup-winning credentials, and a week later at Twickenham, they sent a warning to the world when they smashed the All Blacks.

The 52-16 win at the Principality Stadium was the Boks’ biggest win over Wales on Welsh soil, while the 35-7 defeat of the All Blacks was the heaviest in their history.

The return to London to play Wales in the Qatar Airways Cup will be the Boks’ first action since last year’s World Cup final and it will serve as the ideal preparation for the home series against Ireland, which starts two weeks later, with the first Test in Pretoria on July 6 and the second a week later in Durban.

The Boks have played Wales at Twickenham once before, in a tight 2015 World Cup semi-final.

The deadlock was broken towards the end of the match by No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who set up a match-winning try for scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

Vermeulen is now a Bok assistant coach, while a host of current Boks are veterans of that match, including Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willie le Roux and Handré Pollard.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus – who steered the team to World Cup glory in Japan in 2019 and the title defence in France – said that the Welsh match is the perfect launch pad for an exciting 2024 season.

“We are thrilled to return to Twickenham. We have very fond memories of the World Cup warm-up Test we played against the All Blacks at Twickenham last year. The atmosphere and occasion were remarkable, and we expect a similar experience in June,” he said.

“Playing against Wales, who we have faced there before in an exhilarating 2015 World Cup quarter-final, will bring back plenty of other memories as well.

“We may be playing on foreign territory, but we enjoy fantastic support from the expat community in London and its surrounds, as we saw last year where most of the supporters donned green and gold, so we are looking forward to the match.”

Erasmus said that Warren Gatland’s Wales will be hyped up for the game after trying several things in the Six Nations, which is currently under way.

“The Six Nations is an extremely competitive series, much like the Rugby Championship, and we have seen in the last few years what a force Wales can be,” said Erasmus.

“Most of the matches between the sides dating back to 2008 have been decided by fewer than 10 points, and some of those by fewer than five points.

“They also lost out narrowly against Scotland and England in their opening Six Nations matches, so they’ll come out guns blazing.

“They are currently ranked eighth in the world, and they also progressed to the World Cup quarter-finals last year, so this will be the ideal preparation for us to switch into gear for the Ireland series.”

Erasmus is pleased with the preparation behind the scenes by his new Bok coaching team, with newcomers such as attack coach Tony Brown and defence mentor Jerry Flannery set to meet the players properly during the coming two-day alignment camp in Cape Town.

The 43 players who were invited to the camp – made up of 39 South African-based players and four who are based in Japan – will assemble in the Mother City on March 4, following the United Rugby Championship derbies between the Lions and Sharks in Johannesburg and the Bulls and Stormers in Pretoria on March 2.

“Everyone has been hard at work analysing the opposition for the international season since we finalised the new coaching team,” said former Springbok flank Erasmus.

“We have four months to get our structures and systems in place, and we will leave no stone unturned as we embark on this new journey to build toward to the 2027 World Cup in Australia.”

Confirmed Springbok fixtures for 2024

June 22: Wales, Twickenham, London

July 6: Ireland, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

July 13: Ireland, Kings Park, Durban

July 20: Portugal, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

August 10: Australia, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

August 17: Australia, Optus Stadium, Perth

August 31: New Zealand, Ellis Park, Johannesburg

September 7: New Zealand, Cape Town Stadium

September 21: Argentina (away, venue to be confirmed)

September 28: Argentina (Mbombela Stadium)

November 16/17: England (Twickenham, London, date TBC)

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