CAPE TOWN – The Springboks have sustained an injury setback ahead of next Saturday’s blockbuster Test against the All Blacks, with No 8 Uzair Cassiem ruled out due to a rib problem.
The Springboks announced on Sunday afternoon that Cassiem picked up the rib injury during Saturday’s 27-27 draw with the Wallabies at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Cassiem was replaced in the first half against Australia by Sharks youngster Jean-Luc du Preez, who will be the favourite to start at No 8 against New Zealand.
But the problem for Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is that none of the loose forwards remaining in the squad – Du Preez, Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw – are specialist No 8s.
The Bok management said in a statement on Sunday that “if needed, then a replacement player will be called up in due course”. And Coetzee should go that route, as picking flanks at the back of the scrum is asking for trouble against the All Blacks, who boast the best No 8 in the world in Kieran Read.
Western Province star Nizaam Carr has been in excellent form during the Currie Cup, and has the experience of six Test caps to his name. What counts in his favour as well as that he is a similar ball-playing No 8 to original Bok captain Warren Whiteley, and was unlucky to be overlooked in favour of Cassiem in the first place.
But Coetzee is sure to recall Dan du Preez – Jean-Luc’s twin brother – into the squad after he toured to Australia and New Zealand, so Dan could make his Test debut off the bench at Newlands.
Another strong contender for the No 8 berth, if form throughout 2017 was considered, should be Southern Kings workhorse Andisa Ntsila, but he has yet to crack the nod in a Bok squad this year and Coetzee is unlikely to introduce a new player to the group for such a big game.
Meanwhile, WP prop Wilco Louw will play against the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday afternoon (2.30pm kickoff) before joining the Bok squad on the same evening in Cape Town.