Cape Town – Scotland, on our shores on July 4 and 11 next year, seem betting certainties as South Africa’s first post-World Cup opponents.
Although confirmation specifically from SA Rugby was awaited at the time of writing, all signs point heavily to the Scots, ranked ninth on the current World Rugby ladder, being the Springboks’ first hurdle – two home-based Tests on successive weekends – in their capacity of Webb Ellis Cup-holders and now top-ranked global outfit.
Scotland would be reasonably moderate first opponents in 2020, as they were eliminated (third in Pool A behind Japan and Ireland) ahead of the knockout phase of the Japan-hosted World Cup and ended fifth in the latest edition of the Six Nations competition, only ahead of routine strugglers Italy.
That may be no bad thing from a Bok perspective, given both the new burden of being world champions, and the fact that the national team’s reworked brains trust under director of rugby Rassie Erasmus may well wish to experiment with a few fresh faces given certain high-profile retirements - Tendai Mtawarira and Francois Louw quickly spring to mind - since the stirring events in Yokohama recently.
What used to be a period of more traditionally June-staged Tests, largely in the southern hemisphere, has become more July-geared, with Super Rugby 2020 not having a hiatus period and being played right through to completion with the final on June 20.
The Scotsman newspaper (www.scotsman.com) reported recently that “two Tests in South Africa and one in New Zealand have been confirmed for summer (the SA winter) 2020”.
Considering other two-Test series nailed down for that fortnight period – the relevant international “window” period also includes a third Saturday, July 18 – sheer process of elimination makes it highly likely Siya Kolisi’s side will tackle Scotland first up.
Australia tackle Ireland over the two weekends in question, Japan host RWC runners-up England, New Zealand host Wales, and Argentina entertain France.
Wikipedia’s “2020 July rugby union Tests” page already provides many confirmed venues for those matches, although the SA v Scotland fixtures - while listed as happening on July 4 and 11 - do not.
The July 18 slot is conspicuously less filled so far than the prior two, still allowing some room for late allocations: only Argentina v Italy and the Scots’ onward game from their SA safari against the All Blacks (Dunedin) are pencilled in.
So the Boks, presumably even more attractive opponents for any northern powerhouse now considering their RWC-winning status, could yet find themselves hosting a more “heavyweight” Six Nations team on that gap date.
South Africa were probably just about due to entertain Scotland in mid-year anyway, considering that their last visit here had been in June 2014, during Heyneke Meyer’s tenure as head coach, when they were thrashed 55-6 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium by a Victor Matfield-led host nation.
When the Boks first played again after their maiden hoisting of the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995, a shorter time period elapsed as they played Wales at Ellis Park only two and a half months after the World Cup final against New Zealand, winning 40-11.
Following the 2007 title success, the Boks again played Wales as next opponents – five weeks after beating England in the Parisian RWC showpiece – and prevailed 34-12 in Cardiff.
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