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Springboks face Premiership opposition for first time since 2009

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Jacques Nienaber’s Springboks are set to take on Gallagher Premiership opposition for the first time since 2009 as a November tour match has been arranged for later this year against Pat Lam’s Bristol at Ashton Gate. Not since they were beaten on their 2009 tour by Leicester at Welford Road and then by Derrick Hougaard’s Saracens at Wembley have South Africa played a fixture against a top-flight English club.

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Nienabar’s team for the November 17 match versus Bristol will be called an SA Select XV and the Springboks boss is hoping that two more midweek matches will soon be confirmed to wrap up plans for the tour that features Test games on successive weekends versus Ireland, France, Italy and England.

An SA Rugby statement read: “The Springboks will kick off their tour against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, November 5, and this will be followed by a Test against France at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome a week later on November 12. Italy await on November 19, with the venue yet to be confirmed by the hosts, while the tour will conclude against England at Twickenham in London on November 26.

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Jacques Nienaber on Damian Willemse
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Jacques Nienaber on Damian Willemse

“Negotiations are also currently underway to arrange two more midweek games for an SA Select XV team during the tour, following confirmation that a fixture against the Bristol Bears at the 27,000-seater Ashton Gate will be hosted on Thursday, November 17.”

Springboks boss Nienaber, who visited a number of Premiership clubs on a late April trip to England with some of his assistant coaches, added: “Our traditional year-end tour is taking shape and the fact that we have confirmed one of the SA Select XV games already is great news.

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“The SA Select XV games will provide us with a chance to cast our net wider looks to build squad depth and give players as much game time as possible as the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France draws nearer. We only have a limited number of matches left before we kick off our Rugby World Cup campaign in September next year and we need to use every opportunity we can to give the players game time to develop our player combinations and build squad depth.

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“We have an enlarged squad of 42 players with us at the moment for the Castle Lager Incoming Series and hopefully we will have an opportunity to see what most of these players can do at international level as they look to throw their names in the hat for next year’s international extravaganza.

“We have constantly alluded to ensuring that we can take a squad to the World Cup with a reasonable amount of Test caps and although the planned mid-week games are not Tests, it will be vital in keeping the players in tune with our structures and systems and giving them the chance to tour with us and play overseas. That is the only way one can build that type of experience.

“While we know the Test matches will be very tough, I have no doubt the Bristol Bears will provide challenging competition for our SA Select XV team, especially given their track record of having finished top of the Gallagher Premiership table during the 2020/21 season and winning the European Challenge Cup in October 2020, so we are under no illusions about the challenge they will present.”

Springbok year-end 2022 tour fixtures
Saturday, November 5 – South Africa vs Ireland (Dublin – Aviva Stadium)
Saturday, November 12 – South Africa v France (Marseille – Stade Velodrome)
Thursday, November 17 – SA Select XV v Bristol Bears (Bristol – Ashton Gate)
Saturday, November 19 – South Africa v Italy (venue TBC)
Saturday, November 26 – South Africa v England (London – Twickenham)

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