It was announced last week that the Springboks will roll into Welford Road to take on Leicester Tiger during the Autumn Internationals in November. What better way could you have the new Caterpillar stand unveiled with a stadium capacity of 24,000 to welcome the World Champions?
The mid-week game will take place on Thursday 5th or Friday 6th of November, and will act as a warm up for three tough tests against France, Italy and current Grand Slam Champions, Ireland.
It will be a chance for the Springboks to adapt to the northern hemisphere style of rugby after their Tri-nations encounters over the summer, and they will look to start their tour on a high with a win over the Tigers, while wanting to experiment ahead of the World Cup in 2011.
Their preparations for the tour will be in Johannesburg with the South Africans arriving in England just one day before the clash in Leicester, before moving on to Toulouse to face the French.
How will Leicester cope with the world champions, while some of their regular English Internationals will be preparing for the Saturday Test at Twickenham against the Wallabies?
Tigers players selected for the Elite England squad by Tiger legend Martin Johnson include, British and Irish Lions Harry Ellis and Tom Croft, as well as Toby Flood, Dan Hipkiss George Chuter, Louis Deacon and Jordan Crane, many of whom will be out of contention for the clash with the Boks.
This however could give valuable experience to players such as England Saxon fly-half Sam Vesty to front up against Steyn or Pienaar. Vesty showed massive potential towards the end of last season, and then during the 2009 Churchill Cup in Colorado earning selection over Danny Cipriani.
With Martin Castrogiovanni and Marcos Ayerza possibly being called for duty with Italy and The Pumas respectively, Tendai Mtawarira ‘The beast’ will potentially line up with Julian White, who will be aiming to tame him more effectively than old friend Phil Vickery managed in the first Lions Test.
The match, no matter the outcome will provide valuable experience to all players involved. Whether it is experiencing world class professionalism through the eyes of young players like Sam Vesty, or English Premiership elitism through the eyes of successful world cup and Lions series captain John Smit, it will certainly provide an exciting start to the Autumn Internationals.
Already South Africa have shown interest in a second mid-week game to the tour, but no plans have been finalised. Fixtures like this could encourage more touring international teams to experience the level of the Guinness Premiership while providing less experienced players with a taste of international standards.
Surely this can be nothing but a positive to the game?
By Callum Sheppard