x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Springboks have backs to wall with Argentina up next

Injuries will force South Africa to make several changes to their starting line-up when they face Argentina in the Rugby Championship tournament.

Pierre Spies will be among those missing from the South Africa line-up when the Springboks face Argentina in their opener for the Rugby Championship tournament.
Pierre Spies will be among those missing from the South Africa line-up when the Springboks face Argentina in their opener for the Rugby Championship tournament.

South Africa's mighty pack has been ravaged by injuries and they will be without five of the top back-row forwards for their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina on Saturday.

The latest casualty is the rampaging No 8 Pierre Spies who was yesterday ruled out of the whole of the revamped southern hemisphere competition and faces surgery on an injured finger.

Fellow World Cup winners Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow are also injured while Ryan Kankowski is unavailable because of club commitments in Japan.

And the hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has been ruled out of the first two weeks of the competition with a knee injury.

The 27-year-old Spies injured a finger during the Pretoria Bulls' Super 15 campaign last month and while he had been given the all-clear to take his place in the side further scans have revealed that the fracture has not healed properly.

Craig Roberts, the Springboks team doctor, said: "It was found that Pierre had a fracture into the joint. Surgical correction is needed in order to prevent permanent damage. The usual rehabilitation time for these kinds of injuries is eight to 12 weeks."

His place will be taken by Keegan Daniel, who will make his first Test start when he lines up at No 8 in Cape Town.

Daniel, 27, who captained the Natal Sharks to the Super Rugby final this season, has made three substitute appearances for the Springboks since making his Test debut against Ireland in 2010.

While Daniel has experience at the back of the scrum, his regular position is as a flanker and concerns have been raised that, at a height of 1.88 metres and weighing in at 94 kgs he may be too small for the international game.

Heyneke Meyer, the Springboks coach, rejected these suggestions yesterday and has no qualms about Daniel's ability to perform at the highest level.

"Keegan has been playing really well in Super Rugby and he has put up his hand," Meyer to said.

"It is a setback losing someone of Pierre's experience but I think that Keegan is the logical choice to replace Pierre.

"It is a step up and it is in his hands now to see if he can play at this level. What you lose in physicality with Keegan you gain with the X-factor he brings to the team."

South Africa's starting line-up against Argentina features six changes to the team who drew 14-14 with England in their last competitive outing in June.

The fullback Zane Kirchner, wing Lwazi Mvovo, inside centre Frans Steyn, flanker Willem Alberts, lock Andries Bekker and Daniel are included in the 15 while there are two possible debutants on the bench in the form of prop forward Pat Cilliers and centre JJ Engelbrecht.

Mvovo, who has four Test caps, replaces the injured JP Pietersen and will play on the left wing despite wearing the No 14 shirt. Bryan Habana will shift to the right wing.

"Lwazi has been impressive this year and I know he can fill the huge boots of JP," Meyer said.

 

Higginbotham eager to face All Blacks

Australia’s Scott Higginbotham is relishing the chance to take on New Zealand from the start in their Bledisloe Cup clash on Saturday.

The abrasive back-row forward will make his first start against the world champions at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, having previously only managed two cameos off the bench against the All Blacks.

It has been a frustrating couple of years for the Melbourne Rebels-bound Queenslander since making his long-awaited international debut against France at the end of 2010.

Injury delayed his entry into the Test arena before he was forced to bide his time behind the former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom.

But the 25 year old is ready to make up for lost time.

“That was disappointing, the last couple of years and the amount of time I got at the World Cup, but that’s all changed now,” Higginbotham said.

- “I’ve just sort of stuck to my guns, played Super Rugby [for the Queensland Reds] the way that I always have and I’m getting rewarded for it now.

“I’ve never started against the All Blacks and I haven’t played too many minutes against them.

“I don’t even think I’ve played a full half against them so it’s very exciting. I’ve obviously had that extra time to prepare in the background and learn everything, but not actually put it into practice.

“But I played just about all 80 minutes in every game of the Wales series so I’m prepared and excited.”

Higginbotham has primarily been used at blind-side flanker at Test level, but will start at No 8 on Saturday in place of the injured Wycliff Palu.

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