Injuries plague Wallabies, Boks have boardroom woes

2009-08-26 00:00

WHILE the Springboks are concerned with matters of the boardroom, the Wallabies have a number of major injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s Tri-Nations international in Perth.

The Wallabies have delayed naming their squad after centre Berrick Barnes (concussion) and lock Nathan Sharpe (shoulder), two of their better players against the Boks at Newlands, were yesterday ruled out of Saturday’s game and will join captain Stirling Mortlock on the sidelines.

Their brawny loose forward Rocky Elsom and sprightly 19-year-old fullback James O’ Connor are also doubtful and coach Robbie Deans said he would wait until tomorrow to make a decision on their fitness.

The Springboks only have replacement loose forward Danie Rossouw (hamstring strain) on the doubtful list but he has obvious cover in the returning Schalk Burger.

There has been speculation that in the only change to the starting line-up coach Peter de Villiers will drop Frans Steyn and switch Ruan Pienaar to fullback as he looks to his future options.

Steyn served the Boks bravely during the British Lions series and against the All Blacks but he was less effective against the Wallabies when he occasionally took the wrong options. Still, there would be no talk of any change at fullback if the talented young player was committed to the Boks but he is leaving South Africa after the Tri-Nations to play club rugby in France.

Pienaar wants to be scrumhalf, was asked to move to flyhalf and now could find himself at fullback and that would be a major test of his versatility and ball-playing skills.

The Springboks are arriving in Perth in bits and pieces for the Test with nine reserves (including Burger) flying in yesterday and the starting team arriving later today.

The other Springbok concerns at the moment are centred on the boardroom.

The Bulls are furious that Springbok wing Bryan Habana broke the terms of his contract in going behind their backs and signing for Western Province.

The Bulls’ contract with Habana has the right of first refusal and they maintain they should have been shown the WP offer (believed to be close to R3 million a season) before he signed and then been in a position to match it. But, according to reports, Habana contacted Bulls team-mates at the weekend to tell them he had signed before his union had been told. His SMS message read:

“Just want to let you guys know before you find out in the media. I have decided not to re-sign with the Bulls. I signed with WP today. It was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make. Thank you very much for everything in the last five years! It’s been an amazing journey. Let’s go win the Currie Cup!”

The Springboks have also been stunned by the level of IRB anger at their armband protest against Bakkies Botha’s two-week ban which kept him out of the final British Lions Test.

The IRB said that the Springboks could have been suspended from the 2011 World Cup had it not been for legal technicalities. Instead SA rugby and the players have been fined.for bringing the game into disrepute.

It seemed, at the time, that the protest was an error of judgement by the Springboks and an uncharacteristic response by their sensible and composed captain John Smit. It would not have been the first time he or his team-mates had been forced to accept a poor or wrong decision and Smit had eloquently voiced the Springboks’ unhappiness with Botha’s suspension on the eve of the Test match. And there the matter should have rested.

But for the IRB to threaten South Africa with suspension from the Rugby World Cup, which is still two years down the line, is as vindictive as the Springboks’ untimely protest was stupid.

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