The Springboks fielding a weakened‚ inexperienced team in the Rugby Championship may in the end be dictated by circumstance rather than design.
The Springbok team that won the Rugby World Cup in Japan last year has already without the talents of Tendai Mtawarira‚ Francois Louw and Schalk Brits‚ who have retired.
But now a crippling injury list is threatening to undermine their status as the world’s highest ranked team.
Injuries to locks RG Snyman‚ Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth as well as to star flyhalf Handre Pollard will come as a considerable blow to a side hoping to defend their Rugby Championship crown in Australia.
Snyman and De Jager are effectively out of Bok contention this year‚ while it is hoped Etzebeth’s rib injury will heal before the competition reaches a climax in the first two weeks of December.
The tournament is scheduled to take place on the Australian east coast between November 7 and December 12.
Pollard was the latest casualty after he departed the scene early in Montpellier’s clash against Racing 92.
“Following last Friday’s match against Racing 92 at La Paris Defence Arena the club confirms Handre Pollard’s absence for many months after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament‚” the club said.
Should Etzebeth also miss the start of the Rugby Championship the Springboks would effectively have lost 409 caps‚ including the retirees from the squad that last did duty in Japan.
Even before the injury bogey hit‚ the Springbok brains trust was already seriously considering taking an inexperience squad to the Rugby Championship.
A source revealed the rationale was that the team would be on a hiding to nothing in Australia as it would not have had enough game time or training as a group.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was said to be loath to expose his senior players to a competition for which they were not adequately prepared.
With a growing injury list he will now have little choice but to push more inexperienced players into battle.
His stock at lock in particular now looks a little depleted.
With Franco Mostert the only World Cup lock standing‚ Marvin Orie and Jason Jenkins‚ who have played four Tests between them‚ are likely to feature in the inflated squad of around 46 players that is likely to go Down Under.
With Pollard sidelined there should be scope for the inclusion of Curwin Bosch‚ the leading points scorer in Super Rugby before the tournament was suspended earlier this year.
He may complete the flyhalf complement next to Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse.
Robert du Preez‚ who played his only Test in Washington against Wales in 2018 is also in the mix having been asked to join the wider training group that includes his brothers Jean-Luc and Dan‚ as well as Sale Sharks teammates Rohan Janse van Rensburg‚ Akker van der Merwe and Faf de Klerk.
Ox Nché who also played in Washington looks likely to be in the mix along with local Sharks’ teammates Aphelele Fassi and possibly Sanele Nohamba.
With local competition still in limbo Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber are likely to lean heavier on active overseas based players for this assignment.
They would already have witnessed an unusually high injury toll following the resumption of the different leagues‚ and they may also have to brace themselves for more casualties once the domestic competition kicks off around the end of the month.