There’s still a month to go before the Springboks are in action again, but there’s already a temporal feel about South Africa’s November tour to Europe.
Coming off a disappointing Rugby Championship showing, including the biggest loss in team history, the Boks are set to face Ireland, France, Italy and Wales between November 11 and December 2.
After a 25-24 loss against the All Blacks at Newlands on Saturday, coach Allister Coetzee tried to paint an optimistic future by detailing his plans for the year-end tour. But developments since that speech must have, at minimum, altered those plans.
On Tuesday, Brendan Venter revealed that, while he will continue as the team’s ‘defence and exits coach’, he is in fact a full-time employee of Italian Rugby and therefore cannot be involved in the build-up to the Test against the Azzuri in Padova.
On Wednesday, lock Franco Mostert was linked with a move to one of several clubs in the English premiership once his contract with the Lions and Ricoh Black Rams (Japan) expires next year. Though it won’t directly impact the Boks in November, Mostert only has 15 Test caps and the inevitable departure of Coetzee’s first-choice No 5 will factor into planning.
The match against Wales does fall outside of the Test window which means Mostert (in lieu of his Black Rams contract) may only be available for three of the four matches, one of which will be played without the input of the Bok defence coach against a team that employs the Bok defence coach.
Also on Wednesday, assistant coach Johann van Graan announced that he’s heading to Ireland to take over from Rassie Erasmus at Munster. Part of the deal is that he will chaperone the Boks in November before clearing off.
Erasmus is set to arrive back in South Africa at some point during the tour and it remains to be seen what impact, if any, his return will have on the status quo.
The conclusion is that Bok players will fly north next month for a tough tour with a coaching staff that is in a state of flux and at least one starter who isn’t sure he’ll be back in 2018.