Victor Matfield, Johann Muller and Jean de Villiers are all expected to feature in the Springboks’ final World Cup pool game against Samoa.
The three players have not played since the Boks’ opening game against Wales. Matfield and Muller have been sidelined with hamstring injuries, while De Villiers injured his ribs in that bruising battle with the Dragons.
The Bok management has confirmed that these three players will be considered for next Friday’s game, and that it will be important for the trio to get game time before the probable quarter-final showdown with the Wallabies.
Technical adviser Rassie Erasmus did, however, suggest that playing in such a physical clash could do more harm than good.
‘We hope that all those guys might be available for the game against Samoa,’ he said. ‘I think the coach and the selectors will have to decide whether that it is the right game to take a chance on those guys, but they will be ready.’
Erasmus added that there were no further injuries sustained in the big win over Namibia, and that Bakkies Botha’s substitution was part of the ongoing management of his fragile Achilles tendon.
Having Matfield back in the second row will allow Danie Rossouw a much needed break, although the coaching staff may opt to deploy Matfield and Rossouw as the starting lock combination from hereon in. Rossouw has certainly proved himself to be an indispensable member of this Bok team in the last three weeks.
Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over the role Butch James will play in next week’s clash with the Samoans.
James replaced De Villiers at centre in the first game against Wales, but picked up a hip injury that precluded him from the next two games against Fiji and Namibia. It was a blow to the Boks’ plans considering the coaches wanted to start James against Namibia and give him some real game time before the play-offs.
Word from the Bok camp is that James has battled to train because of the injury, and for the moment it appears as if Morne Steyn will continue as the first-choice flyhalf in the big play-off matches.
It’s a worrying situation given Steyn’s poor defensive performances against Wales and Fiji don’t bode well for a quarter-final meeting with the best attacking side in the world.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Auckland