Johannesburg – The Springboks are likely to be beneficiaries of a favourable programme, including playing the All Blacks on South African turf only, when a slashed Castle Rugby Championship is contested in 2015.
Given the global priority of the World Cup towards the end of the year, hosted by England, the Championship will be reduced by half to a single round of matches, making it more like the northern hemisphere’s Six Nations for once in character.
The Boks, currently second to World Cup holders New Zealand on the International Rugby Board rankings, play only four games next year ahead of RWC 2015, in stark contrast to this year’s much more cluttered programme of 14.
It gives coach Heyneke Meyer 18 games in total - starting with the World XV clash at Newlands this Saturday - to fine-tune his game-plan and resources for the global get-together: South Africa will kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan at Brighton’s Community Stadium on September 19 next year.
Although the official Championship fixtures have not yet been released, Sport24 has reliably learnt that the Boks will play, in likely order, Argentina at home, Australia away, and then defending champions New Zealand at home in the 2015 Championship.
They will then play an extra Test against the Pumas in Argentina that won’t count toward the log, at the same time as the All Blacks and Wallabies also lock horns in a non-Championship game.
There is also no traditional June Test window period next year, so a full Super Rugby programme is played on an uninterrupted basis - after the final in that competition the SANZAR countries plus Argentina go straight into Championship battle.
So next year will see the smallest Championship (or even former Tri-Nations) yet, with three intense matches by each side deciding the fate of the silverware.
Before the last World Cup in 2011, the final Tri-Nations competition - before Argentina were introduced in 2012 to bring about the new tournament - was also cut, but just to four matches each from the previous six, as for several years the event had a little questionably ballooned to feature three meetings between each side.
It would be a reassuring advantage to play the All Blacks in South Africa only next year, given that the Boks tend to find it easier to get good results in Australia than they do in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
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