After just one Test match of the 2011 season the Springbok have an injury crisis. In the wash-up of their humiliating loss to the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday three players look in doubt to face the All Blacks this weekend. Unfortunately for the tourists two of the injuries are in the second row with Flip van der Merwe and Alistair Hargreaves both picking up knocks. The other is Province flyer Gio Aplon who also sat out training today. Such real injuries are starting to leave coach Pieter de Villiers with egg on his face after leaving 21 so-called injured players at home.
Since Saturday the knifes have been out everywhere for PDV and his under fire captain John Smit, well everywhere except New Zealand for now. Many jurno’s on this side of the Tasman seem to be keeping their powder dry, waiting for what kind of Springbok outfit limp into town – but by all reports we are expecting to see a pathetic Springbok team arrive tomorrow. There will no doubt be lots of rhetoric about how it is the best available team etc. but at the end of the day New Zealand supporters hope this disgrace of a South African side get put to the sword for devaluing the Tri Nations and Test rugby to such a degree. Some are even saying that if New Zealand outwardly say they are resting test regulars then Saturday’s match should be stripped of its Test match status by the IRB because it is clearly not the best two teams available from their respective countries.
The score line on Saturday will be interesting with the All Blacks widely tipped to beat the second stringers from the Republic but the margin will be interesting. The All Blacks are expected to roll out a largely unchanged side with some pundit’s even saying it will be weaker on paper than last weekend against Fiji. Last week the All Blacks ran out winners 60-14. It was a trademark first All Black hit out of the season with plenty of rust to shake off and a game plan that looked more suited to an opposition leagues better than what fronted them on the night. However to be fair Fiji (who incidentally are in South Africa’s Pool at the RWC) dominated passages of the second half with physicality at the breakdown a real feature. It was also not lost on the general watching public that like South Africa, Fiji also had twenty plus players unavailable for one reason or another.
This week it looks likely that four key RWC All Blacks will be rested/rotated/spelled (or if you are in the Springbok management are injured) due to their high minutes played and air miles gained already this year. But to be honest they are arguably the best players in the country by a country mile and like the Bok there is no way that Henry and co. would want to lose these guys for the season due to them being fatigued. Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn and Keven Mealamu have all had stellar season’s to date and would walk into the All Black starting XV on merit, form and just about every other criteria you could come up with – they will all be missing this weekend.
Expect the All Blacks performance to markedly improve upon their outing last weekend in Dunedin. Then again so to should the Springbok, the only difference is that expect the Bok to get pounded in what is again a nothing encounter – or is it! These two sides will square off against each other in the semi–final of the RWC come October. With that in mind Saturday’s exercise for PDV and all South African supporters must surely be all about who from this bunch of Springbok rejects has the spine to not be too traumatised by this touring Tri Nations experience. So, will any of Saturday’s side be included in that RWC match day semi-final 22 – it would be a guess, but I don’t think too many will make the cut, maybe the veteran Danie Rossouw might. Rossouw is likely to chum up with the rest of his geriatric mates come the home leg. We will have a much clearer indicator when the 20 odd injured Bok also all miraculously recover to play the final two Tri Nations fixtures. However, one thing is for sure, how much chance Rossouw and his crew of 2007 have in 2011 will be no clearer after the weekend.Tweet