The fact that South Africa exists The fact that a side was last outfitted against the French Barbarians in 2017 demonstrates how infrequently that platform has been used in the previous five years.

A packed calendar and Covid-19 meant that the experiment simply couldn’t fit into a schedule that was already problematic in terms of player welfare.

Indeed, the years 2016 and 2017 were fruitful for the Lions team led by then-mentor Johan Ackermann.

Ackermann was in the midst of a successful stint with the Lions in which he reached two consecutive Super Rugby finals.

The 2016 series against the England Saxons, which was played in Bloemfontein and George while the Boks were in Ireland, was a 2-0 loss.

The 2017 group against the French Barbarians was also a clean sweep, with the Boks, coached by Allister Coetzee, winning 3-0.

Seven players from the 2016 group went on to become Springboks, while five others had already been capped.

The 2017 squad was a mix of youth and experience, with capped Springboks alongside a group of in-form players and some on the rise.

What happened to them was as follows:

Mvovo Lwazi

Mvovo, who played fullback and wing in both games, had played his 17th Test, but he was still an experienced asset in terms of guiding the young players in this group and at the Sharks. At the age of 34, he retired in 2021.

Gelant, Warrick

Gelant was at the Bulls during this time, having played bit parts for the Boks as a World Cup winner and a starring role for the Stormers in last season’s United Rugby Championship.

His time there was fruitful, but it was also marred by untimely injuries. Later that year, he made his debut against Italy and has appeared nine times since.

Combrinck, Ruan

The bruising Lions winger had played seven Tests for the Springboks in 2016, and that would be his last. The A-team games would be his high point before fading into obscurity overseas before resurfacing for a brief stint with the Bulls.

De Jongh, Juan

De Jongh captained the team in the first game and came off the bench in the second, but he had already missed the Bok bus.

He’d already played the last of his 19 Tests, and Heyneke Meyer, South Africa’s coach from 2012 to 2015, didn’t even look in his direction.

He moved to Wasps before returning to Western Province, where he primarily plays for the Currie Cup team.

Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, and Francois Venter

Vorster’s best moment was as a limited but effective domestic midfielder for SA A, before joining the Bulls.

Venter was having a good year at the time and went on to play a few more Tests for the Boks that year.

The emergence of Lukhanyo Am as a Test-class 13 ended his career, but he’s back in SA rugby with the Sharks after being forced to leave the Worcester Warriors due to financial difficulties.

Mapoe, who is now with the Bulls, was also a victim of the Bok coaching situation, where Meyer and Coetzee did not trust him.

Mapimpi, Makazole

He was cooking at this level and was already showing the form that made him hot property at Border, the Southern Kings, the Cheetahs, and the Sharks.

He’s the first-choice starter at left wing for the Boks and seems to play with an endless tank of energy.

Seabelo Senatla

Senatla, who is established at the Stormers, has moved well between sevens and the 15-man code and was on the door of Bok selection.

Mapimpi has welded that door shut.

Fred Zeilinga and Lionel Cronje

They are both talented schoolboy rugby players who are best described as journeymen players who fill a role that is needed at the time.

Cronje was the starting No. 10 behind Elton Jantjies that year, while Zeilinga saw limited action. They’ve both returned to the Sharks.

Pollard, Handre

Pollard was coming off the bench for both of these games as he recovered from a long-term injury.

He was still with the Bulls at the time, and even in his Test appearances that year, he looked slow.

He worked his way back to fitness to become South Africa’s number one flyhalf, but he’s currently out with an injury that could keep him out of the four Tests in Europe next month.

Dewaldt Duvenhage and Jano Vermaak

Vermaak had three Bok caps between 2012 and 2013, but by 2017, he was a desperate fit as SA’s scrumhalf stocks dwindled.

Duvenhage was at the Stormers at the time and was only adequate. He now plays for Benetton and has appeared frequently in the URC against South African teams.

Chris Cloete, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andisa Ntsila, Ruan Ackermann, Uzair Cassiem, and Sikhumbuzo Notshe

In this game, these four losers shared playing time, and their fortunes have been very different.

Notshe, who played for the Stormers before joining the Sharks, rose through the ranks, earning his first South African cap in 2018 and looking like a shoo-in for the team in 2021 before a knee injury pushed him back.

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