South Africa's Lions gamble
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has taken a big gamble with his preparations for the first Lions Test and we are about to find whether it has paid off or not.
Some of the Boks side, such as fly-half Ruan Pienaar, will not have played for five weeks by the time they take to the field at the ABSA Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
The rest have been wrapped in cotton wool this month, taking part only in semi-contact sessions and practising moves against the Emerging Springboks.
So will they be in peak form or undercooked on Saturday?
They certainly looked in great shape when I visited their training camp in Umhlanga, 20 minutes up the coast from Durban, on Thursday.
Whereas the Lions players had been bruised, bloodied and battered on our flight from Port Elizabeth on Tuesday night, Bryan Habana and Pierre Spies did not have a mark on their faces when I spoke to them.
They were cheerful and relaxed and Spies described the atmosphere in the squad as "very calm and collected".
"The occasion will feed itself on Saturday," he explained in his thick Afrikaans accent, "so it's no use wasting extra energy getting worked up."
Can a side be battle-hardened when their only match together this year was a run-out against minnows Namibia on 29 May though? And when three of their starting lineup - Pienaar, full-back Frans Steyn and outside centre Adrian Jacobs - did not even play in that match, having also missed the end of Super 14?
This makes it even more of a gamble for de Villiers to have pulled his players out of their club sides for the warm-up games against the Lions. He is said to have deliberated about allowing Pienaar, who has not played since 16 May, to play for the Sharks against the tourists, but the player's father explained: "They didn't want to put pressure on him".
Surely the pressure of that match would have been nothing compared to a Test against the Lions though.
Some Boks fans, such as legendary former lock Mark Andrews, are worried.
"You can have as much contact training at practise as you want, but there's no substitute for the real thing," he says.
And he should know, after being part of the South Africa side that lost the series to the Lions in 1997, having also pulled their stars out of the warm-up games.
Springboks assistant coach Gary Gold insists he would far rather be in his side's position than that of the tourists though. "I don't think we are short of game time at all, we are not moaning about being under-done," he told me.
"Most of our guys have played 13 gruelling weeks of Super 14 and had a game against Namibia. The guys are ready to go. I would much rather be in this position than if we had played games and picked up injuries.
"They (the Lions) are tired and some of them have played three or four extra games on this tour."
Walking round the Springboks' news conference on Thursday, held at a curry house overlooking the beautiful beach in Umhlanga, also brought home just how formidable their group of players is.
Habana, Spies, lock Victor Matfield, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and giant prop Tendai Mtawarira, nicknamed "The Beast", were all there, amiably chatting to journalists, and each could justifiably claim to be the best player in his position in the world when on form.
And that's forgetting Bakkies Botha and Fourie du Preez, who were back at the team's Beverly Hills hotel across the road.
There is also a huge desire and determination to defeat the Lions, a feat which Habana believes would cap even winning the World Cup. The winger, who is as effervescent and compelling off the pitch as he is on it, admitted he couldn't wait for Saturday's match.
" A lot of our guys have been playing most of their careers to be a part of this series and now it's on our doorstep," he told me. "The excitement in the air is great and we are really starting to feel it.
"This is probably a bar or two above the World Cup. You can be a part of two or even three World Cups in a career, but probably only one Lions series.
"A lot of legends of South Africa have not been able to experience this tour, so it's definitely going to be up their with the pinnacle of my career."
This common purpose, of beating the Lions and righting the defeat in 1997, has bred an "unbelievable togetherness" in the camp according to the player, who said the players were "willing to die for each other".
The talking and conjecture is about to stop though and the first Test at the famous ABSA Stadium in Durban will soon be upon us. Only then will we find out whether De Villiers has got his plans spot on or repeated the errors of 1997.