Bakkies Botha says there should be no concern about his readiness despite earlier reports that his Achilles injury was serious.
Springboks team doctor Craig Roberts conceded on Monday that the lock was not responding treatment as well as they had hoped. Botha’s selection for the Test against Fiji in Wellington was therefore a surprise.
However, he sought to allay any fears there may be around his condition. ‘I just gave it a go on Tuesday morning and I was just happy to go throughout the training session, so I’m back and I’m quite happy where I am,’ he told keo.co.za.
‘I still feel a little bit of a stiffness, but it is like that old farm vehicle in the morning, it smokes a bit, but if you drive it around for half an hour then it is hot and it can go. So hopefully everything will run smoothly for me.
‘I will definitely warm up much earlier than the normal players do, but if my heel is not going to to make its not going to make it. If it lasts for 80 minutes, it lasts for 80 minutes. As long as I’m just going onto the pitch and give 100% and look the players next to me in they eye and knowing that I can give 100%, I’m happy.’
Pat Lambie was also named to start after a shoulder injury had troubled him. He expressed delight at news of his selection – ‘I’ve slept really well since I heard I was in’ – and also spoke of his eagerness to get on the park. ‘I’m really pleased with the progress that I have made with my shoulder, the medical staff are happy as well. I was actually given the all clear last week so I’ve been rearing to go for a couple of weeks now,’ he said.
Asked about the size of some of the Fijians in comparison to his relatively diminutive physical constitution, Lambie quipped: ‘Something I was told as a youngster is that everyone’s ankles are similar sizes, so you’ll find me going for their ankles.’
Odwa Ndungane was a shock inclusion when the World Cup squad was announced, but gets an opportunity to front Fiji thanks to Bryan Habana being ruled out with a knee injury. He stressed the importance of treasuring possession, something they struggled to do against Wales in the opener.
‘We’ve seen in the game they played against Namibia that they are quite a physical team and they love to run with the ball, so its important for us it to make sure that we do what we trained and keep the ball away from them,’ Ndungane said.
‘That is the only way we can put them under pressure – by not giving them the ball, getting our set-pieces right and dominating the physical aspects of the game.’
Botha was typically bullish when probed on the islanders’ athleticism. ‘I saw their number four went down the touchline against Namibia, then dummied inside and popped a pass for the scrumhalf or the wing,’ he noted. ‘But we know Fiji has those types of players, very versatile and athletic.
‘As long as we stick to our plan and what we want to do this weekend and do it to 100% of our ability, we believe we can have a good day at the office.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Wellington
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