Boks’ tired seniors may be a problem

2010-09-05 12:19

The Springboks ended a ­Tri-Nations campaign in which they covered themselves with little glory in Bloemfontein yesterday, leaving the ­immediate future uncertain.

Tri-Nations is the most high-intensity rugby on the planet and questions have quite rightly been asked as to whether the shaky form of the Springboks could be put down to too many of their senior players having seen too much ­high-pressure action over the past year.

Which immediately brings one to their next engagement, the end-of-year tour to Britain, and whether the likes of John Smit, Victor Matfield, Gurthro Steenkamp, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Morné Steyn, Bryan Habana and Jaque ­Fourie should be going.

At the moment there is no definitive answer to that ­question.

The leading Springboks all have binding contracts with the South African Rugby ­Union, so their employer could just insist they go on holiday over that time.

It seems, though, that the likes of Smit, Matfield, Burger, ­Habana and Fourie are leaning their considerable weight ­towards going on tour.

Matfield said last week that he would “like to play 10 more games this year”, while Smit said on the eve of the Tri-Nations finale that a decision about withdrawing leading names from the tour was yet to be made.

“It is always tricky, deciding when to rest players, and it is very difficult to rest a whole group of players: it is ­something you need to do on an ­individual basis. We haven’t spent too much time on it. We have had a pretty disappointing time in the Tri-Nations, so that is what we have been ­focusing on,” Smit said in ­Bloemfontein.

“But we will do some planning in the next couple of weeks, plotting our road to the World Cup. The fact that it is a Grand Slam tour does ­complicate matters; you’re not going to give that up easily,” the ­veteran of 101 Tests said.

In Britain the Springboks will play the four Home Unions – Ireland (November 6); Wales ­(November 13); Scotland ­(November 20); and England (November 27) – as well as a fairly ­meaningless friendly against the Barbarians on December 4.

Momentum is obviously an important factor heading into a World Cup year, but the ­results on that tour will surely matter little when it comes to defending the William Webb Ellis Cup in New Zealand in a year’s time.

The thought of Smit, ­Matfield and the other veteran Springboks dragging already tired bodies around Britain is not a pleasant one.

The tour would serve a ­better purpose if coach Peter de Villiers could use it as an ­opportunity to further grow the depth in the squad.

“By resting two or three players, we certainly are not saying that we are not having a good crack at winning the Grand Slam. We have already identified quite a few youngsters who are going to go on and become great Springboks,” Smit said.

It’s a well-known fact that Ireland’s 15-10 victory over the Springboks last November was a major blow to the egos of the world’s then number-one side, and it is the need for revenge that is driving many of them to want to turn the tables on ­Paul O’Connell and company.

– MWP Media

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