The accelerating attrition rate will lie behind the Springbok decision to delay the team announcement for the final Vodacom Tri-Nations test until Thursday.
Gavin Rich writes on SuperRugby that the team was to be announced today (Tuesday), but that it would be postponed started to become obvious when the management read out the list of walking wounded, and the CJ van der Linde disciplinary finding was moved from Monday to Tuesday.
The Boks have potential problems in several areas, not least the front-row, where late on Monday both Beast Mtawirara and Bismarck du Plessis were considered doubtful starters for Saturday’s match against Australia at Coca-Cola Park. It is also still unclear whether Bryan Habana will be fit to play.
The injury to Du Plessis could be the most problematic. The hookers underwent a scan on Monday, and conditioning coach Neels Liebel said the management were awaiting the results.
However it does not sound good, and with coach Peter de Villiers not entirely optimistic that CJ van der Linde will be cleared of the charge of dangerous play (result to be announced on Tuesday), the Boks could be seriously weakened in the front-row.
That will be a massive set-back for them in that their scrumming has been the one positive point of a woeful two weeks which has seen them lose 19-0 to the All Blacks in Cape Town and 27-15 to the Wallabies in Durban.
“If CJ is ruled out, and I cannot say I am optimistic (about how the hearing will go), then we will bring someone in, probably Jannie du Plessis,” said De Villiers.
Du Plessis last played for the Boks at last year’s World Cup, but at least he is no stranger to rugby at this level, and with his Sharks teammate BJ Botha busy with his move to Ulster, this would be a wise move. Of course, Brian Mujati will be the man to start, as he has been part of the squad all season, but Du Plessis will find a place on the bench.
The other big problem for the Boks is the injury to wing JP Pietersen, who has been ruled out with a grade-one hamstring tear. That will require at least one change to the back three, with Habana still racing time to be over his injury.
“We are monitoring Bryan’s progress and will make a decision on him later in the week,” said Liebel.
The problem is that that Jonghi Nokwe would probably be out of place on the right wing, so what will the selectors do if Habana is declared fit?
It is possible they move Habana to the right, but that is not normally what you do when a senior player returns. Another option would be to play Odwa Ndungane on the right wing. Or what about Frans Steyn?
The good news for the Boks is the return to fitness of Danie Rossouw. The reserve lock missed out on Durban because of a back strain, but is ready to return to training. Although Andries Bekker played well enough in his first two Tri-Nations tests as a member of the starting team, the second row has looked a bit imbalanced.
The Boks look short of a driving lock in the Rossouw mould, so his selection should be a formality now that he is available again.
Coach Peter de Villiers has indicated a desire not to show any signs of panic in his final selection of the Tri-Nations season, and as there are already enough players likely to be out with injury and hence enough changes, this can be regarded as a pragmatic approach.Tweet