Div warns injured Springboks
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Peter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers sounded a big warning to several World Cup stalwarts ahead of this year's Castle Tri Nations - Relax too much and you'll watch the World Cup at home.
The Bok coach continued his preparations with a young and relatively inexperienced squad, after more than 21 Boks - many of them stalwarts and easy first choices for the squad - were withdrawn from selection due to injury.
But with many of those touring making up the rest of the numbers in the 49 man preliminary World Cup squad, there are a number of players who could make a firm and final bid to be included in the group of 30 that will be chosen to defend the World Cup crown in New Zealand in September.
While many are writing the Boks off because of their lack of world class experience, the Bok management is using the opportunity to blood a number of young stars to deepen their plans and lay a foundation for the future after several players leave at the end of the World Cup.
While it may seem as if many players' places are safe and they are being purposely rested ahead of the World Cup, De Villiers seemed intent on driving home the message that despite experience and class, the old guard could still find themselves surprised if they let their guard down.
Nobody expects massive changes at Bok level, and it wouldn't be too far a stretch to expect the Bok management and selectors to already have pencilled in their 30-man squad, but there may still be one or two surprises, depending on players form against the best two sides in world rugby other than the Boks.
"It will be easy to select a starting XV, but a lot more difficult to narrow down that group from 49 to 30. This squad, while they may be young, makes me excited and they know they will be judged on their rugby, on their workrate on the field and also the small goals we put in place for them," said De Villiers.
"If they do it well, and they do it better than the other guys at home, well then I'll have a problem. The players know very well that there are no guarantees. For the guys, who are staying home injured, they are only injured - there are no guarantees they will be in the side."
The Boks will leave for Australia on Friday, spending a week in Sydney before their clash with the Wallabies on July 23.