Cardiff clash for busy Boks

2010-03-05 00:00

THE South African Rugby Union has done the Springboks no favours by accepting an invitation to play Wales in a specially arranged celebration fixture at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on June 5.

The showcase Test will be played just one week after the completion of the Super 14 and few would bet against the champion Bulls, and their many Springboks, playing in that final.

The match is a repeat of the one in June 1999, which formally opened the Millennium Stadium, when Wales recorded their only victory over South Africa (29-19) in 23 meetings between the nations since 1906.

According to reports, it is the offer of over R5 million rather than revenge which has persuaded Saru to add yet another fixture to a congested programme.

And quite how Bok coach Peter de Villiers can select and prepare a team in a week or two, and immediately after the hard slog of the Super 14, remains unclear.

“As we opened the stadium 10 seasons ago, it was only appropriate that the Springboks should be the nation to mark the anniversary,” Saru president Oregan Hoskins said yesterday, when he confirmed the Test.

“Wales were very keen that we should share this day with them, and although it is a break with the traditional shape of our domestic season, I am sure it will be a momentous rugby occasion — the kind of event that Test rugby is all about.”

The Test is the first of a run of four on successive Saturdays for the Springboks. They face France in Cape Town a week later before Tests against Italy.

The Welsh Rugby Union CEO, who flew to Cape Town to finalise the fixture, said he is delighted the Springboks have agreed to come to Wales in June to celebrate 10 great seasons of rugby at the Millennium Stadium.

“It shows how much respect the South Africans have for Wales in that they are prepared to break new ground in agreeing to this fixture.

“This will undoubtedly be the showcase rugby occasion of the summer in the northern hemisphere, and is a great coup for Wales.”

Hoskins conceded that the Test will present problems for Bok coach De Villiers.

“Obviously we are aware, acutely aware, of the player management issues that this Test presents, but I am sure that the Springbok selectors will look at this as an opportunity to test combinations.”

The Boks now face 14 Tests in 2010, at a time when medical experts are urging Saru to manage their players carefully ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and warning that many of their more experienced internationals face burnout.

Of course, De Villiers could choose his Test line-up for Cardiff from the Super 14 teams that fail to reach the Super 14 play-offs, but that will only result in the Springbok jersey being devalued — and will knock some of the glitter from this anniversary celebration.

To offset the possible loss of Boks involved in the Super 14 final, it is believed that Saru and De Villiers could make a deal which will allow overseas players to be used against Wales.

This will allow former Springboks such as Frans Steyn, Jean de Villiers, BJ Botha, CJ van der Linde, Butch James, Wikus van Heerden and Michael Claassens to be used on June 5 at the Millennium Stadium.

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