Frans Steyn has sustained a serious shoulder injury and will play no further part in the Springboks’ World Cup campaign.
Steyn was clutching at his shoulder towards the end of Friday’s physical battle with Samoa. Head coach Peter de Villiers refused to comment on injuries right after the game, but on Saturday morning, he was in a despondent mood,
‘Frans is likely to go home,’ De Villiers said. ‘The doctor will confirm that it’s 100% later this morning, but at the moment it’s 95% that he’s on his way home, and that is a big blow for us.
‘I was lying awake [last night thinking about who to call in as a replacement]. We will still have to make a few calls and see.’
The obvious replacement for Steyn at No 12 is Jean de Villiers, and the Boks are further covered in the position considering the prodigiously talented Juan de Jongh is in the squad of 30.
What De Villiers, De Jongh and even a player like Morne Steyn lack is the ability to kick penalties from 65m out. The Boks will also miss Frans Steyn’s line kicking game, as well as his ability to slot in at flyhalf, centre, wing or fullback if the situation demands it.
There were bound to be a few injury concerns following such a brutal contest with the Samoans, but Peter de Villiers moved to play down the ailments of Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Francois Hougaard.
‘All those guys have got battle scars, but we hope that they can recover to take their places this coming week.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with us. When we get injuries, we get them in one position. We’ve had problems at lock [during this tournament], and yesterday we lost three wings. So when Lady Luck turns her back on us, she turns it properly.’
De Villiers said that he was happy with the way Danie Rossouw and Victor Matfield performed as a second row combination, and hinted that this pair will front the Aussies in the quarter-final. For the moment, Bakkies Botha won’t be risked until he’s absolutely ready.
‘Do we really need him at 50 %, the way he is, or do we need him at 100%? Rather give him more time.
‘Danie is going very well and we’ve got Johann [Muller] who is properly healed, he will be in the mix this coming weekend. So to have Bakkies back is a soothing thought for me.’
The injury situation aside, the Bok coach said that the team had done everything they had set out to do at the beginning of the tournament.
De Villiers believes that winning ugly is still winning, and doesn’t think that the narrow wins against Wales and Samoa have shown the Boks to be off the pace when compared to the Wallabies and All Blacks.
‘When we won in Wellington by one point, we achieved what we came here to do, which is win games. A lot of people call it winning ugly, but it’s uglier if you don’t win. We scored 160 points for and 22 against [in four pool games]. That’s a difference of [about] 140 points so we came through quite well.
‘Our first goal is now achieved, we’re through the pool stage. We could have lost yesterday and could have been sent home, so to come through against Samoa is an achievement.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Auckland