Second-row crisis deeps for South Africa
July 25, 2011
South Africa's Flip van der Merwe looks set to miss the Springboks' clash with the All Blacks in Wellington © Getty Images
South Africa locks Flip van der Merwe and Alistair Hargreaves are struggling to be fit for the Springboks Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
The duo, who started for the Springboks in their defeat to Australia in Sydney, missed South Africa's training session on Monday - their penultimate session before departing for Wellington on Wednesday.
Van der Merwe popped a rib cartilage against Australia and is highly unlikely to recover though the prognosis on Hargreaves' abdominal muscle strain is more positive. Bulls veteran Danie Rossouw is in contention to switch from the blindside flank and if Hargreaves is also ruled out a test debut looms for Gerhard Mostert.
With Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha resting back in South Africa and Johann Muller also out of action with a hamstring injury, Springboks assistant coach Gary Gold admitted the second row was a major cause for concern ahead of the first of three potential clashes with the All Blacks this year.
"It has been a bit of a headache," Gold said of the injuries to Van der Merwe, Hargreaves and Muller. "It (the lineout) is primary possession for us and it's important to make a plan. Australia had four jumpers and I see this weekend being no different.
"We've got some challenges ahead of us, no question of a doubt. That's what this tour's about, challenges for the guys that are here."
Mostert, 26, arrived from Paris, where he had spent less than a week at his new club Stade Francais since leaving Durban at the end of the Super rugby season, on Sunday via Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
With 21 World Cup contenders nursing injuries back home another casualty toll from the Tri-Nations opener was hardly ideal for the Springbok management as they prepare for the All Blacks.
"It's going to be an unbelievably difficult task," said Gold. "I have no doubt the All Blacks will be a star-studded team again but this is a huge opportunity for a group of guys trying to make their mark."
The Springboks were outplayed at the breakdown against Australia but they will resist the temptation to rush back openside flanker Heinrich Brussow, who continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
"We'll make a decision later in the week, we're not going to rush him," said Springboks team doctor Craig Roberts. "He's busy with a lot of rehab and we're not going to risk him unnecessarily."
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