New Zealand, another of Ireland's autumn opponents, get their 2005 Tri-Nations tilt underway in Cape Town tomorrow, with both Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw back from injury.
2005 TRI-NATIONS: Saturday, August 6
South Africa v New Zealand, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, kick-off 2.00pm (live Sky Sports Extra, highlights Sky Sports 2, 9.00pm)
Inspirational fly-half Carter (shoulder) and vice-captain and star flanker McCaw (virus) have been included by coach Graham Henry for the All Blacks' Tri-Nations opener.
Records will tumble whichever side prospers at the Newlands Stadium - the Kiwis are unbeaten in Cape Town since 1976, while South Africa coach Jake White is attempting to extend his run of nine home wins and a draw since taking over the reins in February of last year.
Back-to-back victories over Australia certainly have the Springboks buzzing, but the Kiwis have emerged as the dominant force in world rugby over the past season.
A 3-0 series whitewash of the Lions only served to confirm that fact last month. With Henry able to recall Carter, McCaw, full-back Leon MacDonald, centre Aaron Mauger, and prop Carl Hayman, the 'Boks will have to be at their very best to poach the win.
The home side do possess a world class pack and one which will trouble McCaw and company, especially in the lineout, where Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are expected to put it up to the dominant forces that are Chris Jack and Ali Williams. White has made allegations that the All Blacks cheat at lineout time, and that statement is sure to stir the visitors, post Haka.
McCaw's head-to-back battle at the breakdown with South Africa's IRB international player of 2004 Schalk Burger is sure to be an intriguing one.
As well as Burger, the 'Boks welcome back experienced prop Os du Randt, and have opted to counteract the sniping play of New Zealand scrum-half Byron Kelleher with a terrier of their own in Ricky Januarie.
Since losing 40-26 to the 'Boks at Ellis Park last summer, New Zealand have gone unbeaten in seven internationals, including a 45-6 thumping of France in Paris last autumn.
Unless that form is subsequently lost, and the 'Boks look like the team to trouble the Kiwis the most, the 2005 Tri-Nations title should be the All Blacks' to lose.
If they do lift the trophy against Australia in Auckland on September 3, what odds on Henry's men taking their foot off the gas for November's Grand Slam bid in the UK and Ireland?
A first win for Ireland over the All Blacks in eighteen meetings would be all the sweeter on November 12 if it came against the reigning Tri-Nations champions, too.
South Africa: Percy Montgomery; Breyton Paulse, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Andri Pretorius, Enrico Januarie; Os du Randt, John Smit (Capt), CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Joe van Niekerk.
Replacements: Hanyani Shimange, Gurthro Steenkamp, Albert van den Berg, Jacques Cronji, Fourie du Preez, Wayne Julies, Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
New Zealand: Leon MacDonald; Rico Gear, Tana Umaga (Capt), Aaron Mauger, Mils Muliaina; Daniel Carter, Byron Kelleher; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Carl Hayman, Chris Jack, Ali Williams, Jerry Collins, Richie McCaw, Rodney So'oialo.
Replacements: Derren Witcombe, Greg Somerville, James Ryan, Marty Holah, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko.
Referee: Andrew Cole (Australia)