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Rugby | Springboks

Siya Kolisi © Gallo Images

Injuries scupper Bok plan for Kiwis

Injuries to key players have rendered it unlikely that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will press ahead with the plan he was hatching to ensure that the chances of success in his first clash with the All Blacks are maximised.

As always, the Boks will this year play their first away Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks in the second week of their Australasian tour. Siya Kolisi’ team will start their tour by playing the Wallabies in Brisbane on 8 September before crossing the Tasman Sea for their 15 September date with New Zealand in Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.

Before they go to Australasia, the Boks are heading to Argentina to face the Pumas in their return clash (they start their Championship campaign against the Pumas in Durban on 18 August). Although there is a week off scheduled between the Argentina and Australian game, the Boks will have to start their journey south not long after returning from the arduous trip to Argentina. With that in mind Erasmus was intending to do what the All Blacks did when they came to South Africa last year via Argentina by sending an advanced guard of players straight to New Zealand.

“It wasn’t really a case of me wanting to send an A and B team as such, it was more a case of me wanting to send some players ahead to acclimatise in New Zealand,” said Erasmus at the Rugby Championship squad announcement at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Monday.

“I am not in the fortunate situation of being able to pick two strong teams because of injuries. If you look at the number of caps (experience), it will be difficult for me to do that because of six or seven crucial injuries. So it is unlikely now that it will happen.”

Erasmus said that ideally though he would like to start the Wellington game with a fresh and ready team.

“I know from when I was a player myself how tough the travel is. When you have played Argentina away and then you arrive in New Zealand on the Monday or Tuesday evening before the test after playing in Australia it does leave you at a disadvantage because at that point the All Blacks have only undertaken one trip. They’ve gone just to Australia and back.”

Erasmus makes a good point and perhaps in future, to make it fairer, there should be a different order of games in the Championship. There does tend to be an evening out of the All Blacks’ advantage when the Kiwis come to South Africa at the end of the competition via Argentina and they have done well to win all but one of the games they have played here since Argentina’s introduction into the competition.

But by the time they get to South Africa the All Blacks have usually either already clinched the trophy or have a gone a long way to doing so. That means there is less risk in playing a slightly under-strength team against the Pumas in Buenos Aires and sending some key players straight to South Africa.

For instance last year, ahead of the Newlands test between the two nations, a group of around eight All Blacks watched the game in Argentina on the television sets in their rooms at the Vineyard Hotel. Players that weren’t to be used against the Boks were flown straight home to New Zealand from Argentina.

“After so much travel we tend to arrive in New Zealand tired and ripe for the picking rather than fresh as daisies. It would have been ideal if I could see my way clear to picking a strong enough team to play Australia and have some guys go straight to New Zealand. It was never a case of sending a whole team straight to New Zealand, just some players ahead of the rest of the squad. It was about managing the work-load. But because of the injuries that is now unlikely to happen.”


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