Cape Town – Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold says Luke Watson “will definitely be involved” in the team’s Tri-Nations opener against New Zealand in Wellington next weekend writes Rob Houwing on news24.co.za
Speaking before the squad’s departure, forwards minder Gold even hinted mildly that the versatile Stormers loose forward could see game-time at No 8 against the All Blacks.
Much will depend, of course, on the ongoing remedial process over the next week-and-a-half involving key open-side flank Schalk Burger.
Burger played a satisfactory 22 minutes against Italy at Newlands in his comeback from a knee injury that had sidelined him since Week 10 of the Super 14 competition.
“I don’t know yet how Peter (de Villiers) plans to use Schalk in Wellington,” said Gold. “I’m not sure if he will start him and give him an hour, say, or have him come off the bench.
“I think he’s ready to play – he’s been rehabbing really well and is desperate for decent game-time. He had a perfect little run against Italy, ticking the right (boxes).
“The great thing about Schalk is the real appetite that builds in him when he’s been sidelined – he tends to make up for lost time in a remarkable way. His conditioning levels are as good as they could be under existing circumstances, and Schalk will always think his body is ready!
“At the same time, the Tri-Nations is a very intense haul this year, with lots of travel in a short space of time, and we have a quality, reasonably settled pool of loose forwards in general.”
With ace New Zealand fetcher and captain Richie McCaw out of the early Tri-Nations equation, the Springboks may be tempted to hit them particularly hard ‘on the ground’ with Burger starting at No 6 and Watson (the only other specialist open-sider in the 28-man squad) at No 8 – a combination that worked efficiently for the Stormers until Burger’s injury.
Gold said Watson’s all-round abilities had impressed the Bok brains trust. “Luke will definitely be involved in the Test and deservedly so. His stats have been really impressive.
“He is also a hungry character and we tend to under-estimate his experience: he’s just had his sixth season of Super 14 rugby.”Tweet