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Springboks shock: South Africa A beaten by Bulls in final warm-up

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

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The Springboks completed their match preparations ahead of next weekend’s Test series opener versus the Lions with a shock 17-14 loss versus the Bulls in a Cape Town clash that took place at the same Green Point stadium that was later hosting the tourists’ in their final preparation game against the Stormers.


Lining out again as South Africa A having defeated the Lions 17-13 in midweek, a matchday squad featuring nine 2019 Springboks World Cup winners led the Bulls 14-0 at the break despite a first-half yellow card for Wandisile Simelane – but they collapsed in the second half rather than pulling clear to secure an expected comfortable win.

Similar to Wednesday, when they failed to build on a 17-3 interval advantage, South Africa A were again held scoreless for an entire second half and were suckered by a late 17-point power surge by the Bulls, who just last month lost heavily to Italian side Benetton in the final of the Rainbow Cup. 

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Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber gives the latest update on his virus-affected squad
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Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber gives the latest update on his virus-affected squad

The Bulls, whose match versus the Lions last Saturday in Pretoria was cancelled due to a virus outbreak amongst Jake White’s squad, were called on by the Springboks to play in a hastily arranged game to try and ensure Jacques Nienaber’s squad were more battle-hardened before taking on the Lions.

Nienaber expected a lack of South Africa A cohesion, stating on Friday: “With several changes to the matchday squad, there won’t be much continuity from Wednesday’s match, but the game time and the chance for these players to show what they can offer on the field will be invaluable with an eye on improving our match fitness and building momentum before we enter the Test series.”

However, he couldn’t have envisaged losing to a local South Africa franchise just seven days out from the Springboks’ first Test versus the Lions. Just three players – midfielder Damian de Allende, hooker Joseph Dweba and flanker Marco van Staden – were asked to start again three days after their midweek win over the Lions and South Africa A did start promisingly, Cobus Reinach embarking on a powerful 13th-minute run that set up Aphelele Fassi to score a try converted by matchday skipper Elton Jantjies.


Simelane was yellow-carded soon with the Bulls attacking the try line with repeated pick and drive and it wasn’t until the 38th minute that South Africa A increased their lead, Simelane making up for his earlier sin-binning to score with Jantjies again converting. 

The expectation was for South Africa A to go and dominate the second half but they miserably failed to build on their interval lead and were caught napping by two tries inside three minutes which levelled the scores at 14-all with 13 minutes remaining.  

Johan Goosen was the creator-in-chief, providing the assists for Keagan Johannes and Johan Grobbelaar to score tries that Goosen himself converted. Replacement Chris Smith then fired over a long-range 75th-minute penalty following a scrum infringement to claim a famous victory that will now create further concerns about the Springboks’ readiness for the Lions Test series.   


It was July 2 when the Springboks defeated Georgia 40-9 in Pretoria in what was their first Test outing in the 20 months since they defeated England in the November 2019 World Cup final in Yokohama. 

Their second match versus the Georgians was scuppered by a virus outbreak in both camps and after training was also shut down for a week, the Springboks re-emerged at the start of this week deciding to organise a second South Africa A game to ensure as many players as possible in their squad had match practice heading into the Lions series.


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