Botha recovers from Namibian Rugby World Cup knock

By Mike Greenaway

As the Springboks crushed Namibia on Thursday, the only worrying sight for Peter de Villiers' management team came when Bakkies Botha limped off the field.

It seemed the giant lock's 32nd birthday might have an unfortunate end to it with a recurrence of his Achilles tendon injury, but the good news for the South Africans is that he has been given the all-clear. Technical analyst Rassie Erasmus said: "It was precautionary. We were always going to gradually reintroduce him to the game [Botha played 40 minutes against Fiji and 50 against Namibia]. I have no doubt he'll be right."

The Boks will also be encouraged by news that Butch James and Victor Matfield are expected to be available for selection for the final pool game next Friday, against Samoa.

"Things are coming together quite nicely for us. Hopefully the injury crisis is coming to an end and our form is improving," Erasmus said. "We always knew we'd be a little underdone coming into the tournament because we had not played for a month and then we picked up a number of injuries in the first week. We knew it would take a while to get it together. Lucky for us we've done that and haven't lost a match.

"We're slowly building up our momentum."

Much to his consternation, it was put to Erasmus that France might throw their game against the All Blacks to make sure they finished on the favourable side of the draw, and maybe the Boks would entertain a similar strategy for the Samoa match.

"It is inconceivable that a coach could stand in front of his squad of 30 players and instruct them to lose a match," he said. "How do you do that? I've never been in a team that's done that. The moment you do that you've lost the tournament."

That's the end of that, then. Erasmus said that, with one eye on the Samoa match, the Springboks were taking the 87-0 victory over Namibia with a pinch of salt.

"When you play a small team like Namibia, people go over the top with the result. They were weak opposition, they don't have a great defensive structure, and they tire. We don't want to get carried away with that," he said.

A notable absentee from the Namibia game was Bismarck du Plessis, who was given a complete break ahead of his starting role against Samoa. It has always been the plan that John Smit would lead the team in the first three pool matches, and then Du Plessis would take over, but critics keep questioning why Du Plessis is not starting matches.

"The critics must trust the coaching staff who have worked with the team for four years and know the squad members and what makes the team tick," Erasmus said. "There is more to it than people realise.

"We're doing the best for our country in attempting to win the World Cup. Give the coaching staff and selectors the benefit of the doubt," he continued.

"I will give you an example of the harmony in our team [with Smit as captain]. We have had no discipline issues, where there have been with other teams. We wouldn't let something small like egos get in the way of the team. Bismarck will get his chance. Everybody is happy in the camp."

- NZ Herald

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