The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa looks certain to go ahead, despite the protestations of myself and many other people that it is too soon for anybody to be visiting that country.

Indeed the UK Government official advice is that all but essential travel to South Africa should be avoided – so does that mean rugby players carrying out their professional duties is ‘essential travel’? Certainly any fans thinking of going out there should be aware of that Government advice, but too many vested interests need this tour to go ahead so it will happen.

Obviously all the home press and media have been concentrating on the Lions and Warren Gatland’s selection, but I think it’s time for a quick gander at the Springboks who look frighteningly strong on paper.

The announcement of the 46-strong squad for South Africa was fascinating in many respects, not least because I suspect many people are unaware that almost half of the squad play most of their rugby outside their native land. Yes some players have doubled up in foreign leagues and Super Rugby, but that is less common now.

So for instance no fewer than five of the squad play for one English club alone – Sale Sharks provide 2019 Rugby World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager along with forwards Coenie Oostheuizen, and brothers Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez.

The other players who ply their trade in England are Leicester Tigers’ back row Jasper Wiese who remains mystifyingly uncapped, and Saracens’ prop Vincent Koch.

Then there’s the Japan-based contingent, comprising Jesse Kriel of Canon Eagles, Franco Mostert of Honda Heat, Kwagga Smith of Yamaha Júbilo and Wille le Roux of Toyota Verblitz.

Ireland is the playing home of RG Snyman and Damian de Allende of Munster while those based in France include Elton Jantjies (Pau), Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux-Bègles), Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard  (all Montpellier), Rynhardt Elstadt and Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse). The last-named player is, in my far from humble opinion, the best winger in the world right now, and he was also the last player to score for South Africa when he notched that fine score in the Springboks’  defeat of England in the 2019 World Cup Final.

I make that 21 overseas-based players in all, and that’s a strength as the men who are based in England and Ireland will be telling their colleagues all about their club fellows that will be donning the scarlet jerseys this summer.

This diaspora is also a weakness as game time together as a squad has been limited, as it is for the Lions. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Boks have not played since that historic win over England in Japan, and will warm up for the Lions with two Tests against Georgia. Will that be enough for them to gel?

By that time the squad will have been reduced in size but the South African Rugby Union have confirmed that that the 'A' team who play the Lions on 14 July will be drawn from the 46-strong group, so there’s everything to compete for amongst this preliminary squad.

Is it too long, however, since their last game? The Lions will be hoping so, but these are all supremely professional players and even though their numbers are spread around the world, when they come together they will all be in shape and ready to rumble.

The Springbok management will be focusing on the Test series, and they will be hoping that the ankle injury suffered last week by Duane Vermeulen will not keep him out of those Tests. The big No 8 was the man of the match in the World Cup Final, and though he is now 34, he is still a human dynamo on the field.

Age has also not withered Morne Steyn who at 36 has been recalled to international duty after four and a half years. British and Irish Lions fans will need no reminding that fly half Steyn clinched the 2009 test series against the Lions with a late penalty in the second Test, so perhaps he is in the squad as a good luck charm almost 12 years on from those heroics. Frans Steyn, 34, played in all three tests back then and has won two World Cups with South Africa, and the big centre is still one of the deadliest long-range kickers in rugby.

Viewed overall, the squad is big and strong and very skilful. There is not a weakness that I can see, and in de Klerk, Vermeulen – if he plays - and Kolbe they have potential match winners,  and while it would be all too easy for director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and new head coach Jacques Nienaber to entrust the role of seeing off the Lions to the men who won the World Cup, that is not how South Africa do things. They bring people through the ranks then pick the best players for the jobs, and right now I am thinking the Lions will have a really tough time beating these Boks.