Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has remained philosophical about losing star lock Bakkies Botha and centre Jaque Fourie to injury ahead of a crunch Tri-Nations clash against New Zealand.
De Villiers will need all the firepower he can muster to enhance the odds for the Boks of beating the All Blacks at Newlands on Saturday.
But the 63-9 Mandela Tribute Test win against Argentina last Saturday came at a high cost, as the encounter robbed the Bok coach of two very experienced players in Botha and Fourie.
The timing of the injuries, especially that of hard-man Botha, could possibly be somewhat crippling to the Boks’ preparations ahead of the vitally important match.
But De Villiers rightly felt that there is no use grumbling over the injuries, and embraced the positive angle of new opportunities.
“It [injury] is part of life. If you try to change things that are outside of your control, you’ll struggle,” said the coach.
“It creates an opportunity for another player to show that he also deserved a chance. There are no coincidences. The next best guy gets to play.
“Bakkies is not there, so instead of worrying about combinations, we’ll go and work on the new combinations.”
Danie Rossouw has been drafted into the squad as cover for Botha, while Frans Steyn has also been added after missing out on selection against Argentina.
Rossouw was of course one of South Africa’s unlikely heroes at last year’s World Cup triumph, and his experience in the green and gold jersey will mean minimum disruptions to the squad and their preparations for the remainder of the Tri-Nations.
Sharks captain Johann Muller, who was also a part of the World Cup squad in 2007, was considered by the Bok management team, but injury ruled him out of contention.
Rossouw was then selected, even though he spent some precautionary time in hospital after suffering from a prolonged elevated heart rate after the Blue Bulls’ Currie Cup match against the Lions on Friday.
De Villiers revealed that the selection was carefully considered, and that the decision was made after consulting with the provincial unions.
“We sat down and discussed all the [possible replacement] players, and we got a report back on Saturday morning that Johann Muller was injured.
“So he’ll be out for a week or two for the Sharks too. Danie was always the one guy that will be a first choice, and it’s just our luck that both of them have something wrong at the moment.
“But Danie will be fine, and he will be one of the match 22 [against the All Blacks],” said the coach.
The current situation leaves De Villiers with the choice of pushing the bulky Rossouw straight into the starting line-up against the All Blacks, or leaving him on the bench, and promoting Andries Bekker to start alongside Victor Matfield.
The problem with the latter choice is that the highly-rated Bekker is a similar type of lock to Matfield, while the Boks will need a physically imposing type of player in the second row against the All Blacks.
Rossouw probably suits the role better, but De Villiers did not want to show his hand before his team was officially announced.
“We must be careful how we manage players,” warned De Villiers, hinting that the young Stormers lock should not be thrown to the wolves too early in his international career.
“He [Bekker] has got seven caps now. If we can manage him correctly and get him up to a level where he can be an experienced international player, then we’ll have done a hell of a lot for the lad.
“There’s no doubt about his talent. He has stood up for himself in any competition up to now. We will see where we can fit him in.
“His line-out work is outstanding, and I think his cleaning and his defensive work is some of the best in the squad. So we have a piece of gold in Bekker, we must just nurture him and not put him under too much pressure.”
The Bok coach was also quizzed on whether the Argentina match was a worthwhile preparation ahead of the Tri-Nations home series.
He responded in the affirmative, and said that he was especially impressed by the way that the Springboks changed their fortunes around
“What we take from the Argentina game, is that psychologically you have to be in the same frame of mind as your skill level.
“If you can’t do that, you’re imbalanced. If you look down on people, and you don’t respect them the same thing will happen in your life.
“Italy beat Argentina and their main players retired too. It’s just human [to think] that it will be easy. The word ‘Springbok’ inspired them [Argentina].
“I think that is something we can learn. If you can score a hundred points against a team, give them a hundred,” stated De Villiers.
The coach added that he was pleased with the fact that, despite the scoreline against Argentina, his players were far from perfect, and that they would have learned a lesson from the match.
“The one big plus is that the players were in a bit of bother on the field,” he said. “They didn’t control the game as we thought we could do.
“But the fact that they could stand up and see that they can do it, once they got their basics right, worked for us.
“The big concern was the fact that individually they all wanted to be the hero, and it didn’t work. None of them did the basics right.
“We made many simple mistakes as a team. I think it was one of those games. Those mistakes impacted negatively on the other players in the team.”
Article written by Phil Coetzer of Media 365Tweet