There is no doubt that Heyneke Meyer will be a very happy man after getting through his third Incoming Series without losing a game, but even though the Springboks recorded their massive 55-6 win over Scotland on Saturday, there are still questions that need to be answered.
According to the supersport website, the flood of debutants on Saturday would have been overjoyed that they got a taste of test rugby, Meyer may have no other choice but to cull a number of players as he won’t be allowed the same leeway when it comes to choosing a side for the upcoming Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
At the moment the Bok management are still negotiating with the Japanese clubs about the availability of the players based there for the Rugby Champs, but with a number of injured players set to return in the five week window before the tournament starts, the Boks may have a bit of a selection headache in this department.
Questions still remain about a number of back-up players, including positions in the midfield, fullback, five lock and hooker and while overall if injuries wouldn’t be a factor the Boks would be blessed with an abundance of talent to choose from, it is likely there may be more injuries as Vodacom Super Rugby resumes and reaches its crescendo in the next few weeks.
The Boks may well lose Fourie du Preez for a while depending on his medical status, while there is still concern over the amount of game-time that players such as the Du Plessis brothers, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen and Victor Matfield will be facing by the start of the Rugby Champs and the impact it will have on the national team in those matches.
While Vermeulen and Matfield may get some rest when the competition reaches its playoff stages, the Sharks players could make a title run and it would be unreasonable for their stars not to be involved.
That they should have been managed better earlier in the season is now a moot point, and if they reach the final it means that both Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis would have played 15 straight weeks of rugby without a rest when the Rugby Championship starts.
The Boks might well think about going into the opening two games against Argentina with a different front row, especially as the verdict is still out on Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s bulging neck disc injury, and a decision will only be made in a few weeks’ time.
More clarity will become available this week about the injuries to a number of players, including Eben Etzebeth, Scarra Ntubeni, Damian de Allende and captain Jean de Villiers.
Both De Villiers and De Allende should be fit and available for the Rugby Champs, solving one part of the midfield problem, but with both JP Pietersen and Jaque Fourie unavailable for the tournament because of their Japanese commitments, Meyer may have to rethink what combination he wants, especially with a view against the Australians and All Blacks.
Of the players making their debut in the June series, Cornal Hendricks, Lood de Jager and Handre Pollard certainly look as if they’ve done enough to warrant a longer stay, and all three could well be in the frame for starting positions in the next test.
Flip van der Merwe is out for six months, while there are genuine concerns that Eben Etzebeth may not be ready in time, leaving both De Jager and Bakkies Botha as the obvious contenders for the four lock position, while Matfield will continue in five.
Pollard’s performance against Scotland may allow Meyer to give him another go against Argentina, with Morne Steyn around as the solid alternative. Johan Goosen’s ongoing injury saga has counted heavily against him in the Bok camp and while the Bok management deny there has been any deal not to play Goosen in the Rugby Champs, several influential French newspapers reported that Goosen would be available all season for Racing Metro this year.
If du Preez is injured, the talk of a third scrumhalf will again be a major point, with locally based Cobus Reinach and French star Rory Kockott both the next names in the hat.
The Boks have held off selecting Kockott precisely as he is fourth or fifth choice at the moment, while when he qualifies for France this year he could easily slot in as their No 1, giving him a longer prospect as an international player.
The Bok policy has also been to rather select a third hooker or scrumhalf from South Africa, as was done in the past.