The Springboks were without Victor Matfield and Juan Smith at their first training practice before next week’s Test against the Wallabies.
Matfield twisted his ankle in the 35-17 loss to the All Blacks, while Smith injured his collarbone and shoulder. Both are looking doubtful for the game in Sydney on August 5.
Team doctor Yusuf Hassan could not confirm when these players will be fit again, but there was some good news concerning several other Boks who were struggling with niggles after the Wellington clash. Akona Ndungane, Bryan Habana and Percy Montgomery have all fully recovered from their ailments and were back on the training field on Wednesday.
This may provide coach Jake White with little respite, however, as the two injured forwards were arguably the most prominent in the Springboks pack’s gutsy effort at the Westpac Stadium.
Nine days remain, but if results are anything to go by, the South Africans need all the practice they can get and having two of their best players on the sideline cannot help their cause. Matfield was back to his best in the line-outs against the All Blacks while Smith played one of his best games for the Springboks. Losing Smith also means losing another quality jumper at the line-out.
White is likely to persist with the forward-oriented approach against the Wallabies. If Matfield fails to play, the burden of premier line-out jumper should fall on Albert van den Berg, while Johann Muller may get his first start in the green and gold.
Smith’s replacement should prove less comprehensive, and White may toy with the idea of moving Jacques Cronje onto the blindside and re-installing Joe van Niekerk at No 8.
This is of course not an ideal situation, and White along with most of South Africa will be hoping that Matfield and Smith recover soon.