Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield will be sidelined for 10 days following injuries sustained in Sunday’s Test against Wales.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed on Monday that De Villiers suffered a grade one rib cartilage injury, while Matfield felt his hamstring tighten up in the second half. Both players were substituted because of their injuries, and have subsequently been ruled out of the next game against Fiji.
‘We anticipate that they will both be out for 10 days,’ said Roberts, suggesting the pair may be available for the clash against Namibia on 22 September. ‘It was a precaution to bring Jean off, as we didn’t want it to get any worse. With Victor, we feel it’s a long tournament and want to give him as much time as possible to get over the injury.’
The news means that Johann Muller will be promoted to the starting lineup, while one of Butch James or Juan de Jongh could fill the void left by De Villiers. While Muller is an adequate replacement, his elevation will leave a gap on the Bok bench, and somebody like Willem Alberts may be asked to cover lock.
The Boks will be without their premier locking pair for Saturday’s game against Fiji, as Bakkies Botha is still struggling with an Achilles injury. Reports that he may be out of the World Cup remain unconfirmed, but Roberts didn’t sound too hopeful of a recovery when speaking to the media in Wellington.
‘He’s picked up an Achilles injury and it hasn’t responded to treatment as well as we would have liked,’ the Bok doctor said. ‘We haven’t made a decision [on his availability for the rest of the tournament yet].
Coach Peter de Villiers said this decision will be made ‘sooner rather than later’.
While Alistair Hargreaves and Gerhard Mostert failed to make the initial World Cup squad, they were named on the list of 12 standby players. If Botha fails to recover from his injury, De Villiers may call up Mostert given that, like Botha, he is a specialist No 4 lock.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington