Cape Town – A full two years seem likely to pass before South Africa lock horns again with England, the team they beat in the final of the 2019 World Cup at Yokohama recently.
This follows confirmation by SA Rugby that the world champions’ “extra” home fixture in the July Test window period next year – after a mini-series against visiting Scotland on July 4 and 11 – will be against a relative minnow power.
“The third match will be against a Tier 2 nation,” SA Rugby spokesperson Andy Colquhoun told Sport24 on Tuesday.
That dashes any hopes that a frontline team like the English – beaten 32-12 to the Webb Ellis Cup by the Boks – may have fitted into the remaining, July 18 slot.
While the Boks are playing the Scots over the course of two Saturdays earlier – venues still to be confirmed – England will face Japan away on the same two-match basis, Australia host Ireland and New Zealand tackle Wales.
But Siya Kolisi’s team will now lock horns in the third obligation with a team outside of Tier 1 -- eliminating any of the Six Nations sides from the vacancy.
While the Boks will still have the regular, back-to-full-length Rugby Championship soon afterwards against their three major southern hemisphere rivals, they will now face “softer” foes in their last Test ahead of it.
The most attractive opponents in the gap would probably be Japan, plucky losing quarter-finalists at RWC 2019 to the Boks and popular, maiden host nation; they have not yet tackled the Boks on South African soil and have also not been officially pencilled in for any July 18 date following their double assignment against England.
Otherwise, South Africa’s once-off opposition could probably come from any of Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, the United States, Georgia or Uruguay.
South Africa will almost certainly also not have the opportunity to face Eddie Jones’s charges on their end-of-year European tour, as England are earmarked to play (in order) New Zealand, Argentina, a Tier 2 country and Australia in the November window: seemingly their full house of fixtures in the period.
The Boks are only confirmed, it seems, as playing Ireland so far on that venture (November 14) with the other slots currently blank.
In 2021, the Boks’ major home challenge in mid-winter will be the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions, so also the first likely opportunity for a batch of English players in the tourists’ midst to seek revenge on the Boks, though in a different jersey.
So a repeat of the World Cup final appears most suited to the end of 2021, more than two years since the events of Yokohama.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing