The first Springboks Test of the year is finally upon us, and there are not expected to be too many surprises when coach Jacques Nienaber announces his team selection on Tuesday, 28 June.
Saturday’s opening encounter against Wales at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria is all about setting down a benchmark for the remainder of the season, and it’s already been made pretty clear that Nienaber will stick with the “tried and tested”.
However, it has now been confirmed that powerhouse flank Pieter-Steph du Toit is still going through his final phase of injury rehabilitation and will not be considered for selection this week.
Du Toit missed the majority of the last international season due to a serious shoulder injury suffered during the British & Irish Lions series.
As a result, it’s likely that Kwagga Smith will continue to fill at blindside flank, which he did very capably last year.
Meanwhile, more tickets to the Boks’ six home Tests – starting with the Incoming Series against Wales – were released following the news that more COVID restrictions have been lifted in South Africa. The first match of the three-Test series will take place this Saturday, and it’s now been confirmed that just 3,000 tickets are still available.
South Africans woke up to the news on Thursday morning that the Government had gazetted new regulations that included the dropping of limits on both indoor and outdoor gatherings, which means rugby stadiums can now sell all available tickets instead of the only 50% capacity that had been permitted.
South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has welcomed the news that stadiums will be opening to full capacity.
The news, understandably, was welcomed by Boks boss Rassie Erasmus on social media
“It feels like we’ve been set free,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby. “Certainly an additional 80 000-plus tickets for major rugby events have gone into the market today.
“The news comes just in time for the Currie Cup final and the three Springbok Tests against Wales next month.
“We saw the massive appetite for returning to live sporting events with the playoffs in the United Rugby Championship in Cape Town and Pretoria in the last few weeks and, as a sport, we are delighted with the news that we are moving back to normal.
“Our loyal fans have not been able to see the Springboks play in South Africa for almost three years, and we are expecting them to arrive in droves for the Tests against Wales in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town next month.”
As part of the lifting of the regulations, South Africans are also no longer expected to wear masks indoors, while mask wearing and presentation of vaccine certificates or negative COVID tests are no longer mandatory to enter any venues.
“Even though the restrictions have been lifted, we would still like to urge everyone who attend matches and events to keep their own personal safety, and those around them, in mind when entering venues and take the necessary precautionary steps, and we would also like to strongly encourage vulnerable people and those with underlying medical conditions to take appropriate health precautions,” added Roux.