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Away day test for the Springboks title defence

South Africa will begin their Tri Nations title defence with three away matches in July, with two in New Zealand and one in Australia in Brisbane.

South Africa will begin their Tri Nations title defence with three away matches in July, with two in New Zealand and one in Australia in Brisbane. The fixtures are in stark contrast from this year, when the world champions began with home Test victories against the All Blacks and Wallabies. Australia will play New Zealand in Sydney and Melbourne, with an away match at Christchurch inbetween.

Their away matches against South Africa will be challenging, with Tests at Pretoria and Bloemfontein on back-to-back weekends. The Wallabies have not beaten the Springboks at altitude in South Africa since 1963. "It's challenging in some ways but it will be what we make of it at the time," said the Australia coach Robbie Deans. "There is no point in sweating the small stuff. You go with what you're given and you make the most of it."

Meanwhile, New Zealand will begin next year's international season with Tests against Ireland and Wales in June. The All Blacks will play Six Nations champions Ireland in New Plymouth on June 12 before two Tests against Wales in Dunedin and Hamilton. Lock Nathan Sharpe will miss Australia's grand slam rugby tour of Britain and Ireland because of a shoulder injury he sustained against New Zealand in August. "I had a period from when I injured it to this camp to try and get it right and it's just not improving," he said.

Tri Nations fixtures: July 10 NZ v SA (Auckland); July 17 NZ v SA (Wellington); July 24 Aus v SA (Brisbane); July 31 Aus v NZ (Melbourne); Aug 7 NZ v Aus (Christchurch); Aug 21 SA v NZ (Johannesburg); Aug 28 SA v Aus (Pretoria); Sep 4 SA v Aus (Bloemfontein); Sep 11 Aus v NZ (Sydney) @Email:sports@thenational.ae

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