The BoD factor
The BoD factorSHARE
It is a strange contest, but it almost appears as if Ireland and South Africa are competing to see who can have the most frontline stars on the sideline.
Ireland have lost inspirational leader Brian O'Driscoll, veteran hooker Rory Best, star fullback Rob Kearney and world class loose forward Stephen Ferris to injury in the build-up to Saturday's encounter with the Springboks in Dublin.
However, Bok captain Jean de Villiers, himself currently under an injury cloud, was quick to claim 'victory' in this department.
"No Bryan Habana, no Schalk Burger, no Bismarck du Plessis, no Andries Bekker, no Tiaan Liebenberg, no Pierre Spies," was his retort when asked if the absence of a player like O'Driscoll (and others) would have an influence on the game.
"I've got huge respect for the Irish," said De Villiers – who himself is the final stages of his rehabilitation on his hamstring and will be closely monitored throughout the week.
"Having played there [in the 2009/10 season] and knowing a lot of them very well – they [Ireland] are a quality side," said De Villiers, who could even face up to former Munster teammate Keith Earls in the one-off Test on Saturday.
"Brian O'Driscoll is also someone I respect and he is a fantastic player," the Bok skipper said, adding: "When he is out of the team you will definitely miss a player like him, his leadership as well.
"However, they have capable guys replacing him.
"Rob Kearney is a great player as well, fantastic under the high ball. Roy Best is also a leader within the squad and he will be missed.
"However, that is rugby.
"The names that I mentioned, we are missing and we selected the strongest available squad for us. That is the team that will be representing South Africa.
"It is going to be a tough Test, it is never easy to play there, but it is one we are really looking forward to."
Apart from the cliched goals of "winning all three Tests on tour", De Villiers said it is important that they continue to grow as a team.
"We have come a long way as a squad this year, but we must continue to grow – get to know each other better and have the cohesion," the Boks skipper said, adding that they all need to get on the same page.
"It will be a massive challenge, different conditions," he said of the Tests against Ireland (November 10), Scotland (November 17) and England (November 24).
"Two of the teams we haven't faced yet as a squad together," he said of the Irish and Scottish encounters.
The Boks beat England 2-0 in a three-Test series in June.
Asked what areas the Boks would look to grow in most, De Villiers said: "Defensively we let in a couple of easy tries against the All Blacks in the last game [in Soweto] and we need to improve on that.
"From an attacking point of view we need to make better decisions and the conditions will be different, so the situation on the field will be different.
"You need your mindset to change in a way as well.
"We'll be challenged by different teams with different tactics.
"If you combine all of that, it will be a tough tour."
By Jan de Koning