Springboks sweat on fitness of locks ahead of opener
Springboks coach Peter De Villiers has delayed announcing his starting XV due to late fitness tests on two of his players, just days before their Tri-Nations opener.
Experienced locks Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha face a race against the clock to be fit for the test against New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday.
De Villiers will be keen on fielding his strongest XV as his side look for their first win at Eden Park since 1937.
The squad arrived in Auckland on Monday and have no other injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s match.
The Springboks will undoubtedly miss the experience of talented scrum half Fourie Du Preez, whose shoulder injury requires season-ending surgery.
Ricky Januarie is likely to deputise in the No.9 jersey for the Springboks although recent Ulster signing Ruan Pienaar is also in contention.
Elsewhere, New Zealand have far less worries ahead of the crunch opener, with coach Graham Henry naming the most experienced starting fifteen in All-Blacks history.
A combined 671 caps in the team (22 more than the previous record), includes recalls for the experienced centres Ma’a Nonu (46 Caps) and Conrad Smith (35), in addition to winger Joe Rokocoko (62).
With South Africa and New Zealand matching up on consecutive weekends, the Wallabies have slightly more time to prepare and injury concerns of their own.
Scrum half Will Genia is confident of making their first match in the competition against the Springboks on 24 July despite breaking his thumb in the Wallabies’ narrow defeat to England last month.
The Reds player of the season was replaced against Ireland by the talented Luke Burgess but coach Robbie Deans will be keen to have his first choice half-back available come 24 July.
New Zealand Team to face South Africa:
Backs: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan
Forwards: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Tom Donnelly, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Richard Kahui.