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BOKS v IRELAND: The playing field is more level than before

todayJuly 2, 2024 5

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Ireland will be coming to altitude and crossing the equator but the eagerly anticipated two-game series against the world champion Springboks that starts with the first test in Pretoria on Saturday has a much more level playing field than has been the case for past incoming tours.

While England and Wales will be starting their respective series against New Zealand and Australia in the Antipodes at the end of a long season against teams that should be relatively fresh as their seasons aren’t yet halfway done, that is not the case with Ireland’s opponents.

Now that South African rugby is aligned to the northern hemisphere season, the fact that the Irish players have been on the go since their World Cup buildup started with a training camp over a year ago is not a disadvantage for them. For the Boks have been in season since then too.

Yes, the locally based World Cup winners were given a three weeks break before resuming business with their franchises in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and Investec Champions Cup from the end of last November.

And there was also a short obligatory rest period thrown in during March, when the Home Union teams, France and Italy were playing in the Guinness Six Nations.

But the overseas internationals were also rested before being sent in to action by their clubs, remembering of course that a team like Ireland, because they were knocked out early, finished the World Cup in France in mid-October instead of the end of October.

And with so many of the Ireland internationals who make up the 35-man group currently in South Africa playing for Leinster, where player management and rest are almost over-prioritised at times, the visitors shouldn’t be going into this two game series feeling like they are out on their feet.

At least, unlike in the past when South African rugby was aligned to the southern hemisphere season, if they do feel the impact of a long season their opponents will be in the same boat.

This makes this series, which will be concluded with the second test in Durban on 13 July, a far better measurement of where the respective teams stand in relation to each other than has often been the case in matches played between World Cups.

In the past the southern teams have travelled for their November, or Autumn tours to the northern hemisphere under a similar disadvantage. That may be the case for Australia and New Zealand later this year, but not the Boks, although it does need to be added that something does need to be done to ensure there is a distinct off-season for local players in South Africa.

The Currie Cup will now be played in the two month window that should be the local offseason out of economic necessity for some of the unions who’d have been under threat had it not been the case.

But the MiPlayers move to have it suspended, which they won on arbitration, did have a valid point to it and it is something that needs to be heeded going forward.



Written by: Staff Writer

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