England pose first real challenge for untested Bok trio
The first rugby test of the year is always something special. It's a match that raises questions about whether good provincial form can be transferred to the international level, and how narrow provincial loyalties can be set aside for the national good.
It also presents an examination, as exacting as no other, for newcomers.
In the past, Springbok coaches have tried to get their teams a soft option against weaker international opponents. But this is no longer easy because there is too little time in a season and too much money demanded from the TV paymasters.
That is why the Boks will take the plunge against an England team that narrowly failed to win the Six Nations title a few weeks ago.
England are seldom a weak rugby side and the one that runs out at King's Park on Saturday will be stronger than most. It is also a youthful team that has not been scarred by defeats against the Springboks.
The warning signs are there for South Africa, who will take into the match two rookie lock forwards. Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger have big boots to fill. For many seasons, Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield instilled fear and loathing among opponents. Those two were often the workhorses in what is euphemistically referred to as the "engine room". They were also experts at the dark arts of what really happens in rucks, mauls, lineouts and scrums.
It is not only a baptism of fire for the two locks, but also for coach Heyneke Meyer, highly regarded but dour and untested at this level.
The real test for the Springboks, however, is not on the field. Rugby is a highly charged political game in South Africa and Meyer's biggest challenge will be how he uses the rich talent at his disposal. If he is perceived as a parochial provincial selector, he will receive little sympathy - especially if the Boks lose.
He needs to develop a confidence - again easier said than done - of his ability as a coach and not fall back on conservative tactics that might have outlived their usefulness.