Div holds thumbs on injuries
Cape Town - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers hopes late fitness tests will clear some of the 21 squad members placed on the injury list for South Africa's first two matches of the Tri-Nations Series later this month.
"Some of these players will undergo a second test later this week but because we have to announce our (Tri-Nations) squad on Friday, we'll have to make decisions almost immediately," De Villiers said on Wednesday.
"Once we have a second opinion on some players later this week we might have some relief, otherwise we'll just have to work with the players we have."
Australia and New Zealand were up in arms in 2007 when former Springbok coach Jake White rested key players for the away leg of the Tri-Nations.
De Villiers, however, said he was surprised to have almost half his provisional squad placed on the injury list earlier on Wednesday, including a host of senior players, which posed problems heading into the southern hemisphere competition.
"When I sat down with the medical staff I was very disappointed that I can't have some of those players for the Tri-Nations," he said.
"Our leadership group is actually very thin and that in itself can cause some problems."
Sharks loose forward Jean Deysel was called up earlier on Wednesday as cover for the injury-hit squad, and De Villiers hoped to call up prop BJ Botha, who plays for Irish team Munster, as well.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said the players on the injury list would need to rest in order to recover for the home leg of the Tri-Nations and the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in September.
"These players need to sort out their injuries to get as fit and strong as possible," said Roberts.
"We have identified the injuries and those players really need to be managed.
"It's been a long season and all those players with injuries will now be put on a rehabilitation programme."
De Villiers said he was confident of their chances, even with a severely depleted squad, for Tests against Australia in Sydney on July 23 and New Zealand in Wellington on July 30.
"This is not what I expected but I must be positive," De Villiers said.
"I must bring it across to the guys that I'm very positive.
"The situation will call for a different way of preparing and we started in training today in a way that we can get those guys (the replacements) up to speed."
De Villiers said this season's lengthened Super Rugby competition had inevitably resulted in numerous injuries.
"A lot of the games were tough and a lot of the players aggravated their injuries because they had to play all the time," he said.
"They did not have a choice - they had to play, they had to win the game.
"This became detrimental to us (the Boks) and the players as well.
"I'm not blaming anybody. We always knew that after such a long competition someone had to pay the penalty."
De Villiers said many of the injured players had already proved themselves worthy of selection for the home leg of the Tri-Nations and the World Cup.
"They have been stalwarts for their franchise teams," said De Villiers.
"If you look at (Victor) Matfield at the Bulls, and (Andries) Bekker at the Stormers, they are Springbok stalwarts as well as stalwarts for their franchises.
"It would have been ideal if we (the Boks) were in a position to say that they can't play all the matches (in the Super Rugby season).
"But since we don't pay their salaries, we couldn't stop them playing all the matches.
"We have to respect the way the franchises do things and we just have to get on with the job now."