Boks will face their true test when they hit the road
Their away record has been in decline for years, but it's their success on tour that will define their season
With only two Tests on home soil next season, the Springboks will quickly have to shed the travel blues that have been a constant companion since the last Rugby World Cup (RWC).
Next year they play the Wallabies at Ellis Park on July 20, followed by a clash on August 17 at Loftus Versfeld against Argentina. But their season will be defined by what they do away from home, in particular at the RWC which starts on September 20 in Japan.
The Boks clearly have baggage with just six wins in their 20 Tests away from home since the last RWC. That’s their second-worst return in a three-year cycle following a world cup.
They have won just 30% of their Tests on the road since bowing out in the semifinals of the last RWC. They’ve won six, lost 13 and have drawn against the Wallabies in Perth in their 20 Tests since.
Needless to say that doesn’t compare favourably with the All Blacks’ away record in the corresponding period. Steve Hansen’s marauders have won 18 of their Tests on the road, losing only to Ireland in Chicago and more recently in Dublin.
Even England boast a far superior record. Despite the serious wobble Eddie Jones’s team hit before and during the last Six Nations, they have maintained a decent record when travelling. They’ve won 11 of their 16 away Tests since the last RWC, while Ireland, of whom much is expected in Japan, have won nine of their 16.
Wales, who are being touted as an outsider for success at the next RWC, have surprisingly won just four of their 14 Tests. They don’t play away from home as much as their southern hemisphere rivals, and that may cost them.
If the Springboks’ record, when held up against their main adversaries, doesn’t make for pleasant reading, then there is more sobering perspective to be found when their stats on the road are compared to their predecessors.
The Boks’ away record has been in steady decline over the past few years. In the three years following the 2011 RWC, Heyneke Meyer’s team won 57.9% of their Tests, while Peter de Villiers’s team won 55% of theirs in the lead-up to the start of 2011.
Neither of those coaches however had rolled up their sleeves for a major rebuilding job, and relied quite heavily on World Cup winners from 2007.
Speaking of which, Jake White’s first three years in charge yielded only a 36.8% winning return, although he had to carefully construct a team following Rudolf Straeuli’s misadventures of 2003.
Straeuli, Harry Viljoen and Nick Mallett perhaps took the Boks to their lowest ebb since readmission with a 27.8% winning record between 2000 and the end of 2002.
Unsurprisingly, the Boks’ most successful period was after their 1995 triumph when they won 75% of their away Tests over the next three-year cycle.
The current crop is unlikely to hit those highs in 2019, but with a low 30% base to start from you’d think things will only get better.