WELLINGTON - New Zealand could have a timely injection of fresh legs for Saturday's Rugby Championship match against South Africa with midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty cleared to play after recovering from injuries.
Williams, who missed the opening three matches, is available after having a scan on his injured shoulder, said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. Fellow centre Crotty is also in contention for the match in Wellington after being cleared of a head knock that triggered concussion protocols.
"Sonny had his scan yesterday and he's all clear, ready to go, but he was sick this morning so he didn't train, but the good news is his scan's all clear," Foster told local media on Tuesday. "He's in contention to play, it's just some bug or something."
The pair's return to fitness comes at just the right time for the world champions after inside centre Ngani Laumape was ruled out for the next two to three weeks. Laumape suffered a knee ligament strain in the All Blacks' 46-24 win over Argentina in Nelson on Saturday.
Flanker Sam Cane is also back in the frame after being given a week off to get over concussion symptoms. Codie Taylor took his place in the side in Nelson. Lock and former world player of the year Brodie Retallick had yet to have a scan, Foster added, but was expected to be out for up to six weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday's match.
Hooker Dane Coles, who has missed the entire season with a serious knee injury, was getting close to playing again. "He's got that glint in his eye and he's asking questions and looking for stuff - it's nice to see," said Foster.
The champions are riding a 15-match winning streak in the tournament and will head into the match as heavy favourites against South Africa, who lost 23-18 to a depleted Wallabies side in Brisbane last week and split their opening two matches with Argentina.
"Our whole mindset when we're preparing is based on an opposition who can play at their best," added Foster. "We know that they're a very good team. We saw them play in June and beat a very good England team 2-1. We know they can play."
Always tough watching from the sidelines in sha allah I’ll be back soon— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) September 7, 2018
Looking forward to seeing the lads run out there tonight. I’ve got my 🍿ready it’s gonnna be a good one ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/MHy79GQRhq