PRETORIA – The Springboks have been dealt a severe double injury blow with veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis and centre Frans Steyn ruled out for the remainder of the Incoming Series against England, but it will be insignificant ahead of the first Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The duo apparently suffered injuries while playing for Montpellier in their French Top 14 final loss to Castres over the weekend.
While both players anticipated late arrival into the camp this week had already ruled them out of the opening Test, they were very much in the running to play in the second and third Tests in Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus could hold off on calling up replacements for the French-based duo, and rather opt to keep the status quo with Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Akker van der Merwe as the three hookers, while there should be sufficient midfield cover in the squad.
The withdrawal of Du Plessis and Steyn will have no impact on Erasmus’ side to play against England at Ellis Park this weekend, with the new-look team likely to have a mix of youth and experience.
While Erasmus would have used the first Test of his six-year tenure as Springbok coach to blood in some untested youngsters in their loss against Wales in Washington, the series against England will be a true reflection of who his best players are and what his rugby philosophy is.
Erasmus is likely to go with a potent but untested front row of old hand Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira at loosehead prop and the versatile Trevor Nyakane at tighthead, while Mbonambi seems to be the obvious choice at hooker.
With injuries to Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, Erasmus has been robbed of his front-line second rowers, and even though untested as a lock combination, Franco Mostert and the uncapped RG Snyman look to be the firm favourites to start at numbers four and five.
In what will be Siya Kolisi’s first Test as captain, Erasmus is all but certain to start him at openside flank, with the robust Jean-Luc du Preez at number seven and Duane Vermeulen at eighthman.
Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard seem to have got the nod to start as the halfback pairing, while the in-form Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am are likely to be the midfield combination at 12 and 13 respectively.
Even though untested at international level, wings Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi look certain to be unleashed on the English, while another blast from the past in Willie le Roux should complete the starting line-up at fullback.