Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie believes the injury-hit Boks will struggle in the Vodacom Tri-Nations this year.
The Boks have lost three key players in Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, while others like Gurthro Steenkamp and Andre Pretorius are also out of action.
“An injury to only one key player can cause even the best team to stumble,” said McKenzie in his regular Sydney Morning Herald newspaper column.”Botha is not only a world-class lock forward. He and Victor Matfield form an outstanding combination. The way they complement each other has been the downfall of many teams. The Springboks have a psychological advantage when they are the lock forwards.”
However, McKenzie believes the injury to Burger could prove to be the killer blow.
“I don’t know whether the Springboks really know what a huge trump card they lost when Burger was injured,” he said. “He is a tremendous fetcher. He gives everything; every minute. When I plan strategy for a match against the Stormers, I always take his workrate and intense involvement into account. Any other coach probably does that.”
McKenzie is surprised that a specialist fetcher has not been selected to replace Burger.
“In Australia we attach great value to the role of a specialist fetcher. You’ll find one in every Super 14 team.”
He said he did not know enough about Solly Tyibilika to comment on his inclusion, but from what he saw in Super 14 matches Luke Watson seemed to be the logical successor to Burger.
McKenzie also believes the controversy surrounding White’s coaching contract will have a negative influence on the Boks.
“It could not have been good for the team’s state of mind,” he said. “They could have done without such a fiasco after losing to France.”