Rugby: Springboks rule 21 out of Tri Nations

Bryan Habana. Photo / Getty Images
Bryan Habana. Photo / Getty Images

Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers seems to be up to his old tricks after announcing 21 on his frontline players will miss the opening two games of the Tri Nations due to injuries.

South Africa named their Tri Nations squad overnight with majority of their big names hit by ailments.

While some of the injuries were known, many came to light after extensive medical tests in Cape Town this week when the World Cup squad gathered for its first pre-World Cup camp.

With 21 players recovering from a wide range of injuries South Africa will bring a weakened side to the Australian and New Zealand legs of the Tri Nations for matches in Sydney on July 23 and Wellington on July 30.

Among the players are Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha, Andries Bekker, Francois Steyn, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger.

South African rugby writer Mike Greenaway told Radio Sport this morning that many of the so called injured players fit towards the end of Super 15, while European based players like Francois Steyn haven't played for two months.

"I can't believe that guys who were fighting fit two weeks ago, or a weekend or so ago for Super Rugby, are not fit to travel. In my personal opinion it seems to be a bit of a sham," he said.

The decision may come as a blow to All Blacks fans who have already purchased tickets to the Wellington test which will now feature practically a South African 'B' team.

South Africa rested a number of players during the 2007 Tri Nations, much to the chagrin of Sanzar who repremanded the South African Rugby Union, which worked in their favour as they went onto win the World Cup later that year.

The All Blacks will announce their Tri Nations squad on Sunday and are expected to rest some players during the tournament but not to the extent of South Africa.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry has said previously that he would like to start Dan Carter's back-up in a Tri Nations test this year.

Assistant coach Steve Hansen told media yesterday that the All Blacks don't have the luxury like other countries to start a second string side due to the pressure on them to win every game.

South African team doctor Craig Roberts said that while a number of players faced a race against time to be fit for the two-fixture home leg of the Tri-Nations in August, no one had been ruled out of the World Cup.

"Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen recently sustained serious injuries and will definitely not be ready to take part in the Tri-Nations," Roberts told a media conference.

"But we are hopeful that others who have had long-term injuries, such as Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow and Gurthro Steenkamp, may be availabe at some point in the series.

"There are a number of others who have been playing through the Super 15 championship with chronic injuries and need rehabilitation now to avoid the risk of breaking down with long-term problems in the near future."

Players ruled out of the away leg of the Tri-Nations include:

Backs
Jaque Fourie (groin), Bryan Habana (shoulder), Francois Hougaard (ankle), Butch James (knee), JP Pietersen (back), Fourie du Preez (knee), Francois Steyn (ankle, back), Jean de Villiers (groin)

Forwards
Willem Alberts (shoulder), Andries Bekker (shoulder, groin, ankle), Bakkies Botha (knee), BJ Botha (knee), Schalk Burger (thumb), Francois Louw (clavicle), Victor Matfield (calf, neck), Tendai `Beast' Mtawarira (hamstring), Bismarck du Plessis (shoulder), Jannie du Plessis (knee), Juan Smith (achilles), Gurthro Steenkamp (forearm), Duane Vermeulen (knee)

- HERALD ONLINE/AFP

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