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Boks are aiming to show there's light at end of tunnel

 

By Michael Sadlier

There is rather more at play today than pride or a means of discerning some longed-for progress for South Africa.

The ante on this one was definitely upped when the IRFU raised objections to how it is that South Africa lead the way in being recommended as the preferred option for the 2023 World Cup while Ireland trail in behind France.

And then, of course, Munster have finally lost in their attempted rearguard action to retain Rassie Erasmus, who is returning to oversee the struggling Springboks, while current assistant coach Johann van Graan is leaving the national set-up to take over at the Irish province.

All this has punctuated the build-up to today's Test with the Irish slant being that they have effectively lost the World Cup and a world-class coach because of the need to shore up a haemorrhaging set-up for the game in South Africa.

The fall-out from all this hasn't gone down well for the two-time World Cup winners.

Not that anyone was in denial about the overall decline as September's 57-0 annihilation meted out to the Boks by the All Blacks - South Africa's heaviest ever defeat - brought home a crushing reality for a once proud and powerful rugby nation.

Then there is the virtual mass exodus of talent with most of it relocating to the moneyed English Premiership or Top 14 in France.

Desperate times lead to desperate measures and, in a bid to retain young talent, the Boks no longer consider overseas-based players unless they have played at least 30 Tests though, interestingly, this ruling does not apply in a World Cup year.

It all looks like a grim picture but all is not lost.

At least they did run the All Blacks very close after the recent hammering and, of course, Erasmus' return is also vital.

And what of today? Embattled coach Allister Coetzee has the totemic skipper Eben Etzebeth along with Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira and Bath's Francois Louw all starting up front but the Boks have a rather callow backline.

Even so, they will badly want to begin ending the hurt while also providing a timely reminder to Ireland that the Rainbow Nation are worthy of more respect both on and off the field.

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