Thu, 28 Jan 2021

Boks' Euro 2020 roster: Wales still to sneak in?

09 Dec 2019, 22:10 GMT+10

Cape Town - World Cup champions South Africa will believe they have a fighting chance of marching unbeaten through their end-of-year tour in 2020 ... but especially if their itinerary remains at three matches, something less than guaranteed.

The Springboks last achieved that feat on Heyneke Meyer's watch in 2013, seeing off all of Wales, Scotland and France in that order; European treks traditionally tend to feature either three or four assignments.

While there were no end-of-year tours in the respective RWC years of 2015 and 2019, the Boks could only manage 2/4 in 2014, 0/3 in 2016, and 2/4 each time in 2017 and 2018.

Confirmation at the weekend that the Boks will tackle the French in Paris on November 21 follows the high likelihood that they will also play Italy (venue to be decided) in a tour opener on November 7, and Ireland (Dublin) on November 14.

The last-named two matches are, significantly, installed on Wikipedia's page for "2020 end-of-year rugby union internationals", which already features a pretty full list of November obligations in Europe for all the major southern hemisphere countries.

If the Bok programme stays at those three fixtures, they will feel particularly able to throw everything - despite the fatigue-related challenges always related to these tours for the southern nations - at emulating the 2013 full-house achievement.

Although Eddie Jones, coach of RWC 2019 runners-up England, warned in an interview with Sport24 recently that France could pose a serious threat to the Boks' crown by 2023, when they host the next World Cup, South Africa's recent record in that country is a good one.

They have won all of the last three French-hosted clashes, stretching back to 2013, and last lost there in Toulouse (20-13) in 2009.

The Italy tussle shapes up as a useful tour limb-loosener, given the presently obvious gulf in quality between the two sides, although the Boks would enter it mindful that they crashed 20-18 in Florence in their second-last away meeting in 2016 ... a maiden win for the Azzurri in the 13th bilateral clash and a nadir moment in the troubled Allister Coetzee tenure as Bok head coach.

Probably the most difficult 2020 tour fixture on paper will remain the Irish one: the Boks were clobbered 38-3 in Dublin at the outset of their 2017 trek, the last time they met them there.

But South Africa, sparked by their now outgoing head coach and still director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, are unrecognisable from that time - all for the better - while Ireland have seemingly slipped a notch or two for excellence over the last year or thereabouts.

One possible extra, major obstacle could still loom on the 2020 tour, however: a game against current Six Nations champions Wales, the side the Boks pipped 19-16 in the recent RWC semi-final.

The Welsh, who have won all of the last four Cardiff encounters with South Africa, were the one "home nation" not yet to have finalised their November 2020 programme at the time of writing.

There is still a potential gap, it seems, for them to play the Boks (and why wouldn't they wish to play the world champions if possible?) on November 28, the day England entertain Australia at Twickenham.

SA Rugby's communications boss Andy Colquhoun offered a cagey "always possible, but nothing confirmed yet" when asked about the likelihood of a Welsh-hosted game four on tour for the Springboks.

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