Pretorius to make RWC statement

Andre Pretorius accepts that he will have to prove to the South African rugby fraternity that he is capable of turning it on at the World Cup.

Pretorius, who hasn’t played since May 5 due to injury, was unveiled as Jake White’s back-up flyhalf when the squad was announced in Cape Town on Saturday despite still nursing an injury.

The official prognosis for the Lions flyhalf is a high hamstring tendinopathy [inflammation and tearing], for which he’ll receive treatment in Germany for five days starting July 30.

“The objective is to be absolutely pain free. At the moment I can swim, cycle and jog, but sprinting is not possible and I haven’t tried to kick yet,” Pretorius told Keo.co.za.

“I’m banking on the fact that Müller Wohlfhart will be able to sort me out because I’m really keen to get out on the field again.”

Speaking at the squad announcement White was adamant that Pretorius’ experience and skill made him a logical choice, and insisted that he would give the flyhalf as long as possible to prove his fitness.

If his German mission proves successful Pretorius will have a possible 240 minutes of rugby [against Namibia, August 15, Connacht (Ireland, August 21 and Scotland, August 25] before jetting to France. White however said he was viewing those Tests as preparation for their pool clash with England and would therefore select a full-strength side, meaning Butch James is likely to start.

There have been questions around the wisdom in throwing Pretorius into the World Cup relatively cold [injury meant he also played just 540 minutes of a possible 1040 minutes in the Super 14]. Pretorius acknowledged that those were legitimate concerns.

“The remarks questioning my readiness for the World Cup are valid, I can’t argue with them,” he said.

“But I didn’t select myself, so from that point of view I can’t excuse my selection. I just have have to take my chance when it comes and try to find some sort of form before and in the early games if the tournament.”

The circumstances surrounding Pretorius’ selection virtually mimicked those that preceded the 2003 squad announcement. He was deemed unfit at the time of the announcement but would have recovered to start the World Cup. Rudolf Straeuli initially included him, then changed his mind with Derick Hougaard the beneficiary.

“It’s like deja vu,” Pretorius said with an incredulous smile. “It’s just that this time I actually made the squad when at one stage it actually looked like history was going to repeat itself.

“That was great news because I really feel that one a better player than I was in 2003. Experience obviously helps in terms of making the split-second decisions that flyhalfs are forced to make at Test level.”

Asked whether he would be content to just sit back and play second fiddle to James, or whether ousting the Sharks man was at the top of his agenda, Pretorius stressed the team above individual ambition.

“I don’t see why there has to be the continual comparison between myself and Butch. I’ve come to terms with the fact that he is the first-choice 10 and that’s fine because he is a quality player,” Pretorius said.

“This is a 30-man squad and Jake will play me when he sees fit. Whether that is a an impact player or if I start doesn’t really matter because ultimately we [James and himself] are working towards a common purpose.”

By Ryan Vrede

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