JOHANNESBURG – The late and abrupt withdrawal of Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn from the Springbok squad ahead of the England series – apparently because of injury – has nothing to do with a lack of commitment to the national team, according to coach Rassie Erasmus.
Erasmus revealed that the duo stated their desperation to revive their international careers when he visited them in France a few weeks ago.
“They are keen, very keen. I think that was the big thing when I went over there to see all of them,” Erasmus said on Thursday after naming a team with three new caps to take on England at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“The guys that told me straight up that ‘I’m not sure’, those guys we just didn’t contact, and we accepted that those guys have made peace that they are going on with their careers abroad.
“But Bismarck and Frans were the guys that said they desperately want to play. I have no doubt that it is unfortunately one of those things out of our control.
“It is what it is, and for the better of them and their clubs and to the detriment of our set-up, so we had to make that call.”
Both Du Plessis and Steyn are alleged to have suffered injuries in the French Top 14 final between their club Montpellier and Castres and after being told the news this week, Erasmus resigned himself to the fact that he won’t have the two stalwarts in the side, and will rather back the depth in his 41-man squad.
Du Plessis last played for the Springboks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, while Steyn – who has been a bit of a rugby mercenary after his exploits in helping SA to their second world title in 2007 – has had a chequered history with the national team and when he chooses to make himself available.
In a subtle admission from the old adage of “the one who pays the piper plays the tune”, Erasmus conceded that Montpellier had the ultimate say in the players’ availability.
“I know the two players and I made contact with them, so it is definitely injury problems. They are getting paid by those clubs, and they want to make sure that they have them fully fit when the next season starts.
“I have no doubt about their commitment, but for us it doesn’t make sense to wait another two to three days when we can put some more time into the local boys who are with us currently.”
Erasmus said he will not be calling up any replacements at the moment, and will look from within to replace the French-based duo.
“Let’s see how the weekend goes. We have a squad of 41 minus those two players in France. We saw 13 guys performing out of their comfort zone away from home against a Welsh team, some of them did well, some struggled and some need work.
“So, when we cut the squad on Sunday to less, we will take injuries and form into the reckoning, and if we feel we need to call up somebody, we will make that call on Sunday morning. At this stage, I don’t think we will.”