Bakkies a doubtful starter

2008-11-10 00:00

THE Springboks will know this morning whether their second-row enforcer Bakkies Botha will be in the engine-room for Saturday’s Test match against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Botha was the only player to miss yesterday morning’s training session at a chilly college ground and it appears he remains a doubtful starter for Saturday’s match. Botha has been seeing specialists about his eye injury, received during the match in Cardiff last weekend, and the good news is that it is responding to treatment.

However, the affected eye does not look good at all and Botha was still feeling some discomfort yesterday.

“The situation with Bakkiess’ knee [that kept him out of rugby for a few months] is positive. He played for 40 minutes at the weekend and the knee held up well,” said Bok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“But unfortunately the finger he took in the eye shortly before half-time in the Wales match has caused bleeding on the eyeball. He saw a specialist on Sunday and saw another one today and will be looked at again before we make a decision on his availability for Saturday.

“The positive news is that according to the specialist the eye is responding to treatment. But I wouldn’t like to say right now whether he will be available for selection. I would rather leave that until we have had a proper chance to make a full assessment and final decision.”

The Bok team for the Murrayfield Test is due to be announced at lunch-time today, and it will be interesting to see if Adrian Jacobs will be part of the starting line-up. Jacobs, initially thought to have a more serious problem than Botha, had sufficiently recovered from his medial knee ligament injury yesterday to take a full part in training.

“Adi’s condition has cleared up extremely well over the last 48 hours and, as you saw, he suffered no ill effects of the injury during the training session,” said Roberts.

Yet there must be some doubt over whether Peter de Villiers will continue with Jacobs in the starting team given the greater physical presence of Jaques Fourie who is available again and ready to resume his long partnership with Jean de Villiers.

While the Bok coach appeared to rule out any selection rotations when he addressed the media yesterday, he did not preclude the possibility of changes where changes might be merited.

De Villiers has said that he has yet to make up his mind about the selection for Saturday, but he definitely won’t be making changes in order just to give fringe tourists an opportunity or to blood one of the newcomers, Earl Rose or Heinrich Brussow.

“We still have to assess the situation [with regards the selection] and we will just have to wait until tomorrow [Tuesday] to see what we come up with,” said De Villiers.

“We know what we have to achieve on this tour. Saturday’s win over Wales was not pretty, but we achieved our goal. Our proud country needs role models, and because of this I am not going to get into the habit of giving away freebies. I want the guys who get to play for the Springboks to feel they have earned it. It will create more pride in them.”

De Villiers said that the way the Currie Cup season had turned out had helped his team’s cause as the players who he felt were in danger of being overplayed had ended up getting a rest.

“Players that I was worried about in terms of being over-used included Jean de Villiers, Conrad Jantjes and Juan Smith, but they ended up having three weeks off. So I don’t have a problem with the freshness of the players and that won’t impact on selection.”

But this does not preclude the possibility that changes might be made where De Villiers feels that there are better options and perhaps players better suited to the type of game that will be employed in the matches that remain.

Talking of options, yesterday’s session on a soaked field should have served as a reminder to De Villiers of the folly of employing any other approach to the kicking orientated one that saw the Boks to victory in Cardiff last weekend. However, as is De Villiers’s wont, he set about confusing journalists again yesterday by talking about the desire to play “total rugby” and by saying that “the game we played in Cardiff was not what we wanted”.

While he says that, the reality is that the strategy employed against Wales was exactly what had been indicated from the camp before the game and had been suggested by Victor Matfield when he said at a press conference last week that the Springboks must return to what they know.

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