Rugby Championship

Boks still waiting on Kriel, Habana

2016-10-04 17:28
Jesse Kriel (Gallo)

Durban - The Springboks remain uncertain over the availability of wing Bryan Habana and centre Jesse Kriel for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against the All Blacks in Durban.

Both players left the field injured in last weekend's 18-10 win over Australia at Loftus - Habana with a knee injury and Kriel with a hamstring strain.

Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick confirmed on Tuesday that both players were being given time to recover from their respective knocks, and that a final call could only be made on Thursday just ahead of the team announcement.

Given the current make-up of the Bok squad, the availability of both of those players could prove crucial.

There is a shortage of specialist wing cover in this squad, with Habana and Francois Hougaard occupying those positions against the Wallabies and in both matches away in Australasia.

Stick confirmed that other options at wing at the moment were Willie le Roux and Lionel Mapoe.

Kriel has also played out wide for the Boks.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Rudy Paige is out with concussion, leading to speculation that Hougaard may be moved to scrumhalf for the All Blacks.

But that seems a big call now that there could be a potential problem at wing.

Stick said the emphasis from management at the moment was on combinations, and he highlighted the midfield pairing of Juan de Jongh and Kriel as an example.

"We are trying to build some combinations. If on the day the players don’t click very well, we do give them time to recover," he said.

"Juan and Jesse have the potential to become one of the best centre combinations. We have to see if Jesse is going to recover, and hopefully he will get another opportunity."

Judging by that, it appears the Boks are keen to play Kriel in midfield once more.

But if he is unavailable then Allister Coetzee can call on Lionel Mapoe as a direct replacement, or also call up Damian de Allende in a move that would see De Jongh move to No 13.

"For me, it doesn’t matter if I play 12 or 13. I’ve got a lot of games under my belt in both positions," was De Jongh's response.

The Boks have also implemented a 6-2 bench split in recent weeks, with just two backline players named on among the substitutes.

That left them short on Saturday, when the injuries meant that Jaco Kriel had to take his place up on the wing.

"We will do whatever is best for the team. Ultimately it is the coach's decision," Stick said.


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