Springboks v Wales: Five things to know about the fixture at Twickenham

Jared Wright
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa tackle Wales captain Dan Biggar during the 2022 Castle Lager Incoming Series match between South Africa and Wales held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa tackle Wales captain Dan Biggar during the 2022 Castle Lager Incoming Series match between South Africa and Wales held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town.

South African Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union have confirmed that the Springboks will face Wales in June in a one-off Test at Twickenham Stadium.

It’s a rarity nowadays that two teams will clash in a neutral Test outside of Rugby World Cups, so Planet Rugby runs through five things you should know about the fixture.

Why South Africa and Wales are playing at Twickenham?

The short answer is money. Like it or not, rugby is a business, and both SA Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union could do with a cash injection.

While not explicitly stated, it is likely that the two nations will split the revenues of the fixture after covering the costs of using Twickenham.

Regardless of the finer details of how the Test financially benefits the two unions, make no mistake: it is; otherwise, it would not be taking place.

As for Twickenham itself, the Springboks faced the All Blacks at the home of English rugby before the World Cup last year with an 80,827-strong crowd in attendance – mostly South African expats. That fixture showed that they are able to market to the expat communities in London and its surrounding areas and attract a similar-sized crowd.

It is reported that the RFU are planning to refurbish Twickenham in the coming years, and fixtures like this will garner additional income for the union to fund those upgrades as well.

With the success of the pre-World Cup fixture last year, it is not surprising that the Springboks are returning to Twickenham and with a sponsor like Qatar Airways onboard, it may turn into an annual event.

Why not at the Principality Stadium?

The involvement of Qatar Airways and the Springboks for a second year in a row suggests that it is SA Rugby that has played a key role in organising the Test at the ground and who they would be facing.

Outside of that, the Principality Stadium will also have other events taking place during this time period. Taylor Swift (June 18) and the Foo Fighters (June 25) will be performing at the home of Welsh rugby during the build-up to and after the match, meaning it was not available to host the match.

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Double header

The clash between South Africa and Wales is also being sold as a double-header for fans as the Barbarians and Fiji will face off for the Killik Cup on the same day.

Fans will be able to purchase one ticket and see the world champions in action against Wales before catching the two crowd-pleasers right afterwards.

This will give fans more incentive to snap up tickets for the game as South Africa and Wales are set to be understrength for the match.

Which players will be available for selection?

Several star players will not be available for selection for both Rassie Erasmus and Warren Gatland for this fixture, and there are two main reasons for this.

For one, the match will take place on the same day as the United Rugby Championship final, meaning that players from either nation of the two finalists will not be available for the match. This could be particularly challenging for Erasmus if there is a repeat of the inaugural URC final, in which two South African teams competed.

Adding to the selection headaches for the two coaches is the fact that this match will fall outside of the official World Rugby international window – which starts on July 1. This means that clubs will not be required to release players to the Springboks and Wales for the fixture.

South Africa are likely to be able to call upon their Japanese-based stars, such as Jesse Kriel, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Damian de Allende and Malcolm Marx, as the Japanese Rugby League One season will have concluded by that stage. SA Rugby reportedly have a good relationship with the Japanese clubs, which also makes this agreement possible. This was also the case in 2022 when South Africa faced off against England in a Test match outside the international window.

However, Springboks are set to be without players from non-South African URC teams – Steven Kitshoff, for example – and players who ply their trade in the Top 14 and Premiership. The 2024 Premiership final will be hosted at Twickenham Stadium on June 8, but the English clubs are known not to release players for fixtures outside of the official window, with the likes of Handre Pollard, Andre Esterhuizen and Jasper Wiese all missing that 2022 clash against England for this reason.

The same will apply to Gatland as he, too, has players based in the Premiership, such as Nick Tompkins and Tommy Reffell.

This will leave the two coaches with a selection pool of players consisting of those who have not made the URC final and who ply their trade with local URC teams and players based in Japan.

Following this fixture, the Springboks will return home for back-to-back Tests against Ireland and one against Portugal, while Wales depart for Australia for two Tests against the Wallabies.

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Springboks’ record at Twickenham

The clash against Wales will be South Africa’s 28th Test at the home of English rugby, dating back to the 1913 clash against England.

It will be the second time that they face off against Wales at the hallowed ground after the two sides met in London during the 2015 Rugby World Cup when Fourie du Preez famously scored a try following a Duane Vermeulen offload as the Springboks clinched a 23-19 quarter-final victory.

They then played at the venue a week later, where they suffered a narrow 20-18 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, who would go on to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup.

The first time South Africa faced a team other than England at Twickenham was during the 1999 Rugby World Cup when the then Nick Mallet-led side fell to a 27-21 loss to Australia in the semi-finals – Erasmus was in the starting line-up for the Boks that day.

Their most recent match at the ground was before the 2023 World Cup, as the Springboks claimed their biggest-ever victory over the All Blacks, securing a 35-7 win.

27 – Test matches
14 – Wins
13 – Losses

1913: England 3-9 South Africa
1932: England 0-7 South Africa
1952: England 8-3 South Africa
1961: England 0-5 South Africa
1969: England 11-8 South Africa
1992: England 33-16 South Africa
1995: England 14-24 South Africa
1997: England 11-29 South Africa
1998: England 13-7 South Africa
1999: Australia 27-21 South Africa
2000: England 25-17 South Africa
2001: England 29-9 South Africa
2002: England 53-3 South Africa
2004: England 32-16 South Africa
2006: England 23-21 South Africa
2006: England 14-25 South Africa
2008: England 6-42 South Africa
2010: England 11-21 South Africa
2012: England 15-16 South Africa
2014: England 28-31 South Africa
2015: Wales 19-23 South Africa
2015: New Zealand 20-18 South Africa
2016: England 37-21 South Africa
2018: England 12-11 South Africa
2021: England 27-26 South Africa
2022: England 13-27 South Africa
2023: New Zealand 7-35 South Africa

READ MORE: Springboks: Eight takeaways from Rassie Erasmus’ alignment camp squad as the World Cup winners embrace youth