In the days before the rugby bosses started milking the cash cow with additional Tests between the original three southern hemisphere foes and later expanding it to a four-nations event, it used to be a very straightforward format. The Springboks played the All Blacks home and away and the Wallabies home and away every year.
For Bok fans, it was almost a given that the men in green and gold would lose the two matches against the Kiwis, lose the away match against the Wallabies and then get the better of the Aussies in the return at home. Take the years the Boks won the title in 1998, 2004 and 2009 out of the equation, and that was pretty much the blueprint, give or take a few minor alternations to the script like in 2000 and 2011 when they beat the All Blacks at home, but lost to the Wallabies in their own backyard.
And then a standout feature of the annual proceedings was how comfortably the Wallabies would put away the Boks at home and what heavy weather it was to get the better of the Aussies in the return match.
In 1999 Robbie Fleck somehow snuck the ball over the tryline at Newlands to secure a tense 10-9 win, in 2002 Werner Greeff crashed over in injury time and slotted the conversion for a 33- 31 win at Ellis Park and in 2007 a young Frans Steyn landed two late drop goals at Newlands to help the Boks limp over the line 22-19.
Since the competition’s expansion in 2012, the Boks have lost all four of their away Tests to the All Blacks and lost all their home matches to the Kiwis with the exception of the 2014 win at Ellis Park. From their four outings to Australia, South Africa have won only one and lost three, while they have a perfect record of three from three Tests in their home matches against the Aussies.
Despite their shock loss in Durban to Argentina last year, the Boks have a home record of four wins from five Tests against the Pumas, while they have managed only two wins from four matches in Latin America, bearing in mind that last year’s win in Argentina was not officially part of the shortened Rugby Championship.
So if you were to draw up an average Rugby Championship scenario analysing statistics from after the first four-and-a-third instalments of the competition, a clear picture of probabilities emerges.
The Boks are highly likely to lose to the All Blacks both home and away, beat the Wallabies at home, but lose away to them, while beating the Pumas at home and jetting off to Argentina with a 50% chance, which relates to two or three wins from six matches. In this year’s case, probably only two because they have already lost in Salta.
From a pure mathematical point of view, the Springboks are facing another three defeats over the next month with one traditional banker at home against the Wallabies to look forward to. Good news for a betting man, but hard to swallow for a fan.