Bakkies is fit, says Rassie
Bakkies Botha will be fit to face Samoa in South Africa’s final Rugby World Cup pool match, and was only replaced in their clash with Namibia as a precaution, Springbok technical specialist Rassie Erasmus said on Friday.
“He (Botha) will always have a couple of niggles at his age, and with the way he plays, but I have no doubt he will be ready to play the next game,” Erasmus said.
The big secondrower, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Thursday when the Springboks secured an 87-0 victory over Namibia, left the field with signs of discomfort in the 50th minute.
Against Fiji last week, Botha did not return to the field after the halftime interval, which meant Willem Alberts had to cover at lock.
Erasmus confirmed that the South African medical team was keeping a close eye on the Achilles injury that prevented him from playing in the opening match against Wales.
“We were only going to bring him into the game in stages, so in his first game he only played one half, and this week a little longer,” Erasmus said.
Meanwhile, the defending champions seemed to have recovered from the lock crisis they faced in the early stages of tournament, with Erasmus confident that both Victor Matfield and Johann Muller would be fit to play next week.
“We hope Victor Matfield and Johann Muller will all be ready for selection against Samoa,” he said.
“The selectors and coach will decide if that is the right game to risk those guys but I am confident they will be ready.” Looking ahead to the knockout stages of the competition, Erasmus said both Ireland and Australia would be difficult teams to beat.
Australia suffered a shock 15-6 loss to Ireland last week, and were likely to finish top of their pool, setting up a probable quarterfinal between the Springboks and Wallabies in Wellington.
“In truth, we have to play Australia and New Zealand before we get to a final,” Erasmus said.
“Playing New Zealand at home is a hell of a task and obviously we play Australia in every Super 15 and Tri-Nations, so we know each other very well.” For the defending champions, who steered clear of the All Blacks en route to the 2007 title, facing both southern hemisphere rivals would be seen as the definitive challenge.
“Wouldn’t it be great to go that route and win the World Cup in New Zealand?” Erasmus said.
“That would be the ultimate because the team from 2007, who were fantastic, didn’t face Australia and New Zealand.
“So if we want to go one better than them, I can’t think of a better way, but obviously it will be a very tough road.”