Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has much the same problem with winger Bryan Habana, center Frans Steyn and hooker Bismark du Plessis, as well as loose forwards Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow all among those unavailable.
Meyer’s problems have been compounded by the plummeting form of flyhalf Morne Steyn and absence of his likely long-term replacement Johan Goosen through injury.
That leaves Pat Lambie and regular back-up Elton Jantjies as the most likely to fill the pivotal No. 10 jersey and Meyer, more by accident than by design, looking to the Tests as long-term preparation for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Five uncapped players have been called up to the Springbok squad for the matches against Ireland, Scotland and England, with center Jean de Villiers captaining the side after recovering from a hamstring injury of his own.
Their displays this year indicated there will be little change to the Springbok pattern of building huge pressure in the tight before exploiting defensive gaps with pace out wide, where winger J.P. Pietersen could shine in Habana’s absence.
Argentina joined the southern hemisphere’s big three in the Rugby Championship this year and were buoyed by how much they belied their reputation as poor travelers, even if they never quite got across the line to claim a win.
Coach Santiago Phelan’s sides are never anything but well-prepared and Wales, France and Ireland will know they have been in a Test match the morning after the contests.
However, the recall of 35-year-old center Felipe Contepomi starkly illustrates the lack of depth in the Pumas squad — outside the front row of course — and a win in any of their matches would be considered a shock.