De Villiers sweating Super 14 injuries
May 12, 2009
Peter de Villiers is hoping that this weekend's Bulls v Sharks Super 14 tie will not throw up any injury dilemmas © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers was not surprised with Mike Blair's call-up to the British and Irish Lions squad after an injury to Munster's Tomas O'Leary, but is himself sweating the fitness of his prospective players ahead of a tumultuous round of Super 14 action this weekend.
Stormers fullback Conrad Jantjes has already been ruled out of contention with a broken leg, and de Villiers will be watching keenly as the Bulls and the Sharks go toe-to-toe in Durban on Saturday. With centre Francois Steyn doubtful for the Lions tour with a knee injury there will be further anxious moments as leading Springboks Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie Du Preez, Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana, Adi Jacobs, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen suit up for a hard-fought derby.
"I will watch the contest closely and hold thumbs that we suffer no more injuries at such a critical stage of the season," said de Villiers in his SA Rugby blog. "In recent weeks there have been injuries to some key players but we are confident that they will have recovered in time for the Lions Series. The only player who is definitely out is Conrad Jantjes, who has a broken leg. I visited him in hospital last week and he was bitterly disappointed, but in fair spirits. That's the game of rugby I suppose.
"The Lions' Tomas O'Leary and Tom Shanklin are probably feeling similar emotions after being forced out of the tour by injury. O'Leary's injury has paved the way for Mike Blair to join the squad, which is no surprise at all."
The Springbok squad to take on the Lions will be announced after the end of the Super 14, but de Villiers will take charge before then of a South African XV to play Namibia in Windhoek on May 29. On board for that trial game will be Percy Montgomery, the 100-cap fullback having joined the Springbok setup as kicking coach ahead of the Lions' arrival.
"I am very excited by the prospect of welcoming Percy Montgomery on board as our kicking consultant," said de Villiers. "What better way to improve your squad's overall kicking abilities than by employing one of the most experienced and accurate kickers the game has ever seen? Percy's goal-kicking success rate is a thing of envy and his out-of-hand kicking is world class. He is also technically and tactically astute. His involvement will be well accepted by the squad and I am excited about this development.
"As usual there has been - and will continue to be - much speculation over who will be in and who will be out. The beauty of sport is that everyone has their opinion but our aim is to pick the strongest possible squad that we believe has what it takes to beat the Lions in the three Test series."