Centre crisis for Springboks
Durban – “Even the bad times are good” - This is usually the answer you get from Springbok coach Peter de Villiers when enquiring about his well-being shortly after greeting.
However, he may well be having nightmares over the scale of the injury crisis that has hit his squad ahead of Saturday’s Test against Ireland in Dublin.
On Sunday afternoon there was not a single fit centre in the Bok squad that got together in Johannesburg.
Juan de Jongh suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s Currie Cup final, while Jean de Villiers is struggling with a groin injury.
Adrian Jacobs has been asked to join up with the squad as a precautionary measure, though no call had yet been made on whether he will jet out with the squad to Ireland on Wednesday night.
Meyer Bosman may also be considered.
While there has not yet been confirmation about the injury status of De Jongh and De Villiers, there are major doubts in the Western Province camp as to whether they will be able to play as early as this coming weekend.
De Jongh and De Villiers were the only specialist centres in the Bok squad of 30 announced on Saturday night.
Frans Steyn can also play centre – he does so often for Racing Metro in France – but it not available for the Dublin Test as it falls outside the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) so-called Test window.
Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie could not be considered due to injuries.
Patrick Lambie, who was outstanding at flyhalf for the Sharks in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against Western Province, is also an option for the Bok midfield, though it’s tough to imagine a bigger baptism of fire.
The Bok management already got their first bit of bad news on Saturday night when Ricky Januarie was withdrawn due to a knee injury suffered in the final.
However, with Francois Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar already in the squad, the scrumhalf position is the least of the Boks’ worries.
Things may well get worse as flank Schalk Burger took a huge knock to the chest in the first half of Saturday’s final.
There is therefore a possibility of more bad tidings inside the next 24 hours.
The Bok coach is eager to pick his strongest available side, irrespective of who played in Saturday’s Currie Cup final.
“I don’t think the players are tired. There are new horizons to explore and we want to bring hope for the nation,” said De Villiers.
“The World Cup next year is what we’re working towards, but we can bring some hope and get strong support if we do well.”
De Villiers was not aware of the lengthy injury list at the time of speaking to the media, but said that the selectors did have contingency plans.
“The injury list is a lengthy one, but there are a few guys I’d like to try at centre if necessary,” he said when quizzed about a squad thin on midfield cover.