THE spate of injuries robbing the Springboks of their experienced players continued to create headaches for coach Heyneke Meyer yesterday, with hooker Adriaan Strauss being labelled "a concern" ahead of Saturday’s Test against Australia in Perth due to a knee injury.
Should Strauss be ruled out of the Test, it would not only rob the team of their new vice-captain, it would also result in Meyer having to select his fourth-and fifth-choice hookers for the clash.
Strauss watched from the sidelines last Thursday as his team-mates trained at the Orlando Stadium, but the Bok management team said it was a precautionary measure due to the mild injury. However, with the player only set to start running in a straight line today as the first step in a series of exercises to prove his fitness for the clash, Meyer had cause to be concerned.
Strauss’s injury comes after star hooker Bismarck du Plessis and third-choice hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle were ruled out of the tour with knee injuries — with Du Plessis also ruled out for the rest of the year.
Should Strauss fail his fitness test, Tiaan Liebenberg — who earned his first Test cap off the bench against Argentina in Mendoza — will start the clash, with uncapped Sharks hooker Craig Burden providing cover off the bench.
While Meyer remained hopeful that Strauss could start, he battled to hide his concerns about the injuries in the camp.
"We have lost Bismarck and Chili already, and it is not just about the players, it is also about the leadership," Meyer said. "I was happy with the way Bissy progressed as a leader and I actually see him as a future Springbok captain. Adriaan is also a great leader and he just came through. So if you look at our pack, there are a lot of guys who haven’t played a leadership role … with Pierre also out, it is a huge blow. But hopefully he will be fit."
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said: "Adriaan has a mild knee ligament strain, so we will assess him later in the week and make a decision on his availability depending on how he goes through training. He needs to run and that will be the first step. There is a step-by-step programme he needs to get through, so if he is comfortable with running in a straight line, he will progress through the stages and then we will make a call."
Meyer, however, was confident that Liebenberg would fill Strauss’s boots if he were to start and said: "It will be a huge test for him, especially away from home. I wanted to give him more game time in the previous Test, but it was such a tight game and Adriaan was the vice-captain. However, I have a lot of faith in him and I want to give him more game time this week."
On a positive note, Bath looseforward Francois Louw joined the squad yesterday and although Meyer said he had to get to know the player, he was pleased to have an openside flank in the squad.
"I believe in the option of a specialist openside flank, maybe on the bench," Meyer said. "The northern hemisphere referees are usually more lenient at the breakdowns, but I want to be covered there. Michael Hooper ( Australia) is a good openside flank and he is playing well, so this (Louw) gives us the option if we need someone in that role. But having watched Australia’s videos, most of their ball snatches have been by their hookers so, as I’ve said before, the whole team has to be able to compete at the breakdowns."
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