The depleted Springbok squad moves on to Wellington.

Gio Aplon and Flip van der Merwe will fly home to South African tomorrow morning at just about the same time as the depleted Springbok squad moves on to Wellington for Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand, and this will mean a first start in a Bok jersey for Patrick Lambie and a debut for Gerhard Mostert.

The 2m tall, 125kg Mostert, who only joined the squad yesterday from Paris after being summoned from his new club Stade Francais, will do a straight swap in the second row with Van der Merwe, who has a rib cartilage injury, but Lambie’s introduction could be more complex.

It is conceivable that he and Morne Steyn will switch between fullback and flyhalf, with Lambie taking on more of the attacking duties – he was effective in that role when he replaced Steyn at the three-quarter mark of the 39-20 defeat to the Wallabies at the weekend. The Boks scored two tries in the final quarter and looked far more threatening with Lambie at the helm.

Aplon picked up a shoulder injury early in the match and later took a blow to the lower back, but it is the shoulder problem that has ruled him out.

“At an absolute push we could maybe have patched Gio up to play but this would not be fair on him,” said coach Peter de Villiers. “There is a World Cup coming up and if he aggravated his problem by playing this weekend, it might rule him out of contention. We must be sensible now – Gio is not the biggest guy and we must look after him.”

Lambie played off the bench in all four Tests of last year’s November tour, and was again a substitute last week.

De Villiers said that Van der Merwe’s injury is a concern, especially coming so soon after Andries Bekker was ruled out of the World Cup.

“Popping your rib cartilage is one of the most painful injuries in rugby and once it has happened, it tends to recur. So it is probably not looking too good for Flip for the home leg (of the Tri-Nations) in that he should be given as much time as possible to heal,” the coach said.

The situation regarding Alistair Hargreaves is much rosier. His abdominal muscle injury is not as bad as first thought and De Villiers says he should be fit to resume in the second row against the All Blacks on Saturday.

It would have been a major setback for the Boks had Hargreaves been unable to play this weekend because he has taken on the job of running the line-outs from veteran Johann Muller, who flew home on Sunday with a hamstring injury.

With Hargreaves and Mostert forming the lock pairing, it frees Danie Rossouw to continue at loose forward (he moved to lock when Van der Merwe left the field injured). Rossouw could well move to No 8 for Ashley Johnson with Jean Deysel coming into the side on the flank.

Apart from the physical injuries, De Villiers said he had a big task this week in ensuring the players go to New Zealand with the belief that they can beat the All Blacks.

“We believed we could beat the Wallabies, but the guys did not realise that there is about a 30 percent step up from provincial to Test rugby,” he said. “So there was a wake-up call and now let’s see how they react now that they are wiser.”

BY Mike Greenaway

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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