Springbok coach Jake White has sent seven players home as the international season proper starts in earnest this weekend.
Following the unconvincing display against the World XV at Ellis Park at the weekend, the move will hopefully settle the remaining players as they now slip into real Test match mode.
The national coach was always going trim his squad before the two-Test series against Scotland, with flank Wikus van Heerden the most notable omission.
Some of the players will play Currie Cup rugby for their respective provinces. Others who did not make it to Durban are centre De Wet Barry, scrumhalf Bolla Conradie, lock Andries Bekker (all Western Province), tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and flyhalf Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs) and centre Wayne Julies (Lions).
“Not all these players will play in Currie Cup matches,” White told Beeld’s Hendrick Cronje. “I have put some on programmes to improve their strength and speed.”
White has admitted that the narrow win over the World XV did not help his thinking ahead of a punishing schedule that includes nine Tests in the next three months. Six of those will be against Australia and New Zealand in an expanded Vodacom Tri-Nations.
“I did not find the answers I was looking for on Saturday,” White told Beeld.
White is also hoping to welcome back some of his stars for the first Scottish Test in Durban on Saturday. Schalk Burger and Juan Smith will probably play on the side of the scrum, with either Joe van Niekerk or AJ Venter – who both played at Ellis Park – likely to don the No 8 jersey.
Van Niekerk was one of the most prominent players, playing on the flank in a lethargic Bok performance and White may be tempted to push him to the back of the scrum. It will add some much needed urgency to the Bok effort.
The front row that was well worked over by the World XV vets will also see the return of Os du Randt and captain John Smit, while lock Victor Matfield should also be fit again and included.
Two other stalwarts – Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana – are unlikely to recover in time for the Durban match and quite possibly the second Test in Port Elizabeth too. Both men should be back in the mix for the crunch encounter against France though.