South African flavour in Germany
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Germany's rugby team will face South American opposition in the coming weekends in their first end-of-year international series, part of their bid to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
Rugby is on the rise in Germany with their mens' Sevens team only narrowly failing to qualify for the Olympics this year.
And next Februry and March, the Germany XV will play in the Rugby Europe Championship - a new competition, a grade below the Six Nations - against the likes of Russia, Georgia, Romania, Spain and Belgium.
The top team will qualify directly for the 2019 World Cup, held in Japan.
In preparation, they host Uruguay in Frankfurt on Saturday, then Brazil twice on the following weekends, in Heidelberg on November 19 and seven days later in Leipzig.
Uruguay made the last of their three World Cup appearances at the 2015 tournament in England, while Germany lost to Russia in the qualifying rounds in 2014.
"We know it's going to be a big challenge and it's going to be physical, especially at the breakdown," Germany's South African head coach Kobus Potgieter told AFP.
"We need to front up. We have come a long way in recent years, but we have to show that on the pitch and a win over Uruguay would be a good start."
After Uruguay, Germany then face Brazil having beaten the South Americans twice away last year.
A 29-12 win in Blumenau in November was followed by a 31-7 victory a week later in Sao Paulo, which helped Germany climb to their world ranking of 26. Uruguay are ranked 19th with Brazil 30th.
But Potgieter expects a battle royal in the tests against Brazil, who stunned the USA 24-23 - the minnows' first win over a nation in rugby's second tier - during February's Americas Rugby Championship.
And in losing 7-42 to an Argentina XV, Brazil scored their first try against the Pumas in decades.
"It's going to be tough, Brazil have developed a hell of a lot since we played them, as they showed in beating the USA," said Potgieter.
"But this is exciting, it's the first time we have played an autumn [November] series.
"We hope to show we can give teams tough games, and be good hosts, to make it a regular thing."
Apart from the coach, there is a South African influence in the squad. Prop Samy Fuechsel plays for second-division French team SC Albi and fellow front rower Julius Nostadt plays for Chambrey.
The side is captained by veteran scrumhalf Sean Armstrong, an Australian, who has been living in Germany for the last nine years.
"Most of the guys play their rugby in Germany, but we keep an eye out for anyone with German ancestry, particularly in South Africa, where I still have contacts," explained Potgieter.
Cape Town-born back-row forward Sebastian Ferreira, 22, is set to make his debut having played seven Currie Cup this season for Port Elizabeth-based Eastern Province Kings.
At 1.94m and 110kg, he will bolster Germany's pack while Marcel Coetzee has also flown from South Africa for the series with the 20-year-old centre or flyhalf having learnt his trade in the Sharks academy.
But the biggest benefit of the back-to-back tests for Potgieter is having had the squad together since Monday.
"We haven't met as a group since March, which is a big break in between, so in some ways we're starting from scratch," said the coach.
"We have been able to cram six training sessions in, rather than just meeting up on the Wednesday night like we used to do.
"We hope to have a regular autumn [November] series. You can't get better if you don't play the best teams."