Springbok ‘balancing act’ as injury spook hits Wales Test, first Irish clash

Front from left, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel go through their paces in Pretoria yesterday. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

Front from left, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel go through their paces in Pretoria yesterday. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 14, 2024


The Springboks will be without eight injured Springboks for at least the first two Tests of the international season.

Coach Rassie Erasmus confirmed yesterday that World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff, Jean Kleyn, Damian Willemse, Canan Moodie, Jaden Hendrikse and Kurt-Lee Arendse are all nursing injuries, alongside 2019 winner Lood de Jager, loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez and young centre Henco van Wyk.

They will not be considered for the first two matches of Erasmus’ second reign, while double world champion Cheslin Kolbe, who has a knee niggle, should be available for the Irish Test, but will miss next weekend’s clash against Wales.

South Africa and the Welshmen will clash at Twickenham in London next Saturday, and as things stand, a depleted and inexperienced Bok team could take to the field.

Erasmus – who will name his first match-day squad of 2024 next Tuesday – will also not be able to call on his European-based players due to the Wales Test falling outside of World Rugby’s international window.

While the Bulls are playing in the semi-final of the United Rugby Championship against Leinster in Pretoria tomorrow, Erasmus alluded that should they fall out, he might rope in an experienced head or two if needed in key positions.

“We will announce our team for Wales internally on Sunday, just so that some of the newer guys can get settled in from Monday before we fly out on Wednesday,” Erasmus explained in Pretoria yesterday.

“In certain positions, there will be some young guys next to each other, then some of the Bulls guys (can come in) who understand how we want to play – most have been at the alignment camps.

“But not all who will be involved with the Irish Test will come in, for the pure fact that they haven’t trained with us – apart from next week.

“But where there are a lot of injuries – we already have a few injuries on the outside backs. Cheslin (Kolbe) is touch and go. Makazole Mapimpi is ready, but we might be thin there.

“So a guy like Willie (le Roux) could come in to settle the combinations there, depending on how they (the Bulls) do.”

Erasmus said although it will be nice to have some Bulls players available, getting to the final of the URC is more important, especially for South African rugby.

And they are not about to keep players in cotton wool ahead of the Irish Test, as they just don’t have the luxury to do so.

“A guy like Malcolm (Marx, hooker) is probably someone you want to manage, and with the other hookers around, you have to think carefully,” Erasmus said.

“You want to see some new blood playing, but you also don’t want something happening like in 2018 (against Wales), where we blooded a hell of a lot of players, but lost the Test.

“We want to win the Test match, but we want to manage some guys returning from injury. We want to get some youngsters through.

“It is a bit of, I don’t want to say a balancing act, but as the weeks go on, we will get clarity. But putting guys in cotton wool, they won’t have that match fitness and be almost battle-ready for Ireland.”

There will also be an incentive for those new players who perform against the Welsh. While the European-based players, like captain Siya Kolisi, will be added to the squad ahead of the Irish series, should injuries occur, Erasmus and his coaches will look to these fresh faces to fill certain slots.

And if all goes well against the second-ranked side in the world, Erasmus said, they might look to the Portugal game in Bloemfontein to throw a lot of youngsters into the mix with a good Springbok spine.

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