Kankowski joins Steyn with Boks as cover for injured Juan Smith

2010-08-24 00:00

TWO Sharks, one current and one from the past, have rejoined the Springbok squad in Pretoria ahead of the Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies at Loftus on Saturday evening.

The Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski has been rushed to Pretoria and is on stand-by for injured flank Juan Smith while fullback Steyn, now playing for Racing Metro in France, flew back to South Africa at the weekend and attended training yesterday.

Kankowski, who played a strong role in the Sharks’ weekend win over Western Province, scoring one try and having a hand in the other, was called up when it emerged that Smith has injury problems.

The lanky Free State captain, who made a strong return to the Springbok team, is the only injury concern in the squad following the weekend’s agonising 22-29 loss to the All Blacks at the FNB Stadium.

Team doctor Craig Roberts said that Smith has an abdominal muscle strain. Smith did not take part in the training session yesterday, but Roberts said he is confident the flank will recover in time for the Test.

Bok coach Peter de Villiers could still select Kankowski for the starting line-up if he decides that muscular number eight Pierre Spies, after a series of limp performances in the Tri-Nations, should be dropped.

Frans Steyn, after weeks of confusion and contradiction, has returned after last playing for South Africa against Wales in June.

De Villiers said it was “great” to have Steyn back in the squad and said the saga around his selection was “all a matter of miscommunication”.

Steyn was initially called up to a Springbok training camp two weeks ago, but has only now been released by Racing Metro for international duty. He turned out for his club last Friday without any problems and showed no signs of injury during yesterday’s session.

De Villiers would not be drawn on Steyn’s role against the Wallabies.

“He is a great addition to our squad, but we have a player in the position [Gio Aplon] who did not do badly last weekend. We will discuss what will be best for the team against Australia and make it known when we confirm our team tomorrow [Tuesday].”

De Villiers told the media that he had a lengthy discussion with Steyn “and he understands his role in the next two Tests.”

“Frans is interacting well with the other players, but I think it’s a bit premature to say he’s happy.”

De Villiers said steps would now be taken to avoid a repetition of the Steyn debacle and he and SA Rugby manager Andy Marinos would travel to Europe after the Tri-Nations to meet with overseas clubs.

Steyn, who impressed observers at yesterday’s training session with his fitness and the length of his kicking, said “it was great to be back with the Boks”.

De Villiers says Australia will provide his team with “a different challenge” to the All Blacks on Saturday.

“They do not have the same physical presence as the All Blacks and unlike the All Blacks they will not try to take the ball wide whenever they get the chance.

“They will rely on flyhalf Quade Cooper to use the inside ball to bring big runners into the game. Flank David Pocock will definitely be a factor at the breakdown.”

De Villiers dismissed allegations that the Boks are not fit.

“Yes, we tired towards the end of the All Black game, but that was from them having to make a lot more tackles in a very high intensity game.”

De Villiers conceded that there was “something wrong with Victor Matfield and Pierre Spies,” but he could not explain their lack of form.

Most observers believe that the players are exhausted after two years of non-stop rugby, but the Bok coach said he would be talking to the players.

There could again be changes in the Bok starting line-up with Steyn at fullback and centre Jaque Fourie, over his suspension, back in the midfield while fit-again lock Danie Rossouw is expected to be recalled to the second-row.

Meanwhile, captain John Smit finally conceded in an interview yesterday that fatigue could be a factor in the Boks’ recent defeats.

“This is an experienced team that is being beaten and perhaps it is a high mileage thing where some players have had a bit too much rugby and their bodies are talking.”

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