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Fri Apr 18 03:35:07 SAST 2014

Bismarck is sunk, so Strauss waltzes in

CRAIG RAY | 20 August, 2012 06:350 Comments
South Africa's Adriaan Strauss is tackled by Argentina's Gonzalo Camacho during their Rugby Championship match in Cape Town, August 18, 2012
Image by: Mike Hutchings / REUTERS

BISMARCK du Plessis had to wait for four years to be the Springboks' first-choice hooker behind legendary skipper John Smit - but now a season-ending injury will place him on the sidelines for six to eight months.

Du Plessis tore knee ligaments against Argentina on Saturday, opening the door for Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss to nail down his place as the first-choice hooker.

The Bulls' Chiliboy Ralepelle is also currently on the injury bench, although his prognosis is much rosier than that of Du Plessis's.

Ralepelle should be fit to play by next month while Du Plessis will be lucky to start next year's Super Rugby campaign in February.

As a result of Du Plessis's and Ralepelle's setbacks, Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg is suddenly in line for a test cap against the Pumas in Mendoza this weekend, while Sharks No2 Craig Burden is on tour with the Boks for the first time.

If Strauss suffers some sort of serious injury, the situation will reach crisis proportions for coach Heyneke Meyer, who has already gone into the Four Nations without Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Pierre Spies, JP Pietersen and Coenie Oosthuizen.

Strauss matches Du Plessis's primary strengths of throwing and scrumming but Bismarck's ability to steal ball on the ground and drive over the advantage line will be difficult to replicate.

The Boks battled at the breakdown against the Pumas during their 27-6 win at Newlands, which almost certainly had something to do with Du Plessis's absence after he was stretchered off in the second minute.

"We definitely missed Bismarck; not just in ball protection but if you look at the pack he's also one of the more experienced at present and a leader there," Meyer said.

"He's also renowned as a great ball-stealer. But we need more of a team effort at breakdown, to be more physical there. They were all over us at breakdown and we didn't handle it on the day. We need to step up and be more clinical.

"It is a huge blow, but Adriaan is a quality hooker and a good leader as well, so it's nice to have him [available]."

Apart from Du Plessis, the match day 22 that beat Argentina have been retained and five players were added to provide depth in certain crucial positions - Liebenberg and Burden (hookers), Dean Greyling (prop), Juandré Kruger (lock) and Jano Vermaak (scrumhalf).

Following the Springboks' return from Argentina, the national selectors will meet to select a touring squad of 28 who will travel to Australia and New Zealand for the third and fourth rounds of the Four Nations.

"We only finalised the touring squad after the test against Argentina at Newlands on Saturday afternoon as we first wanted to assess the injury situation," Meyer said.

"It's never nice to leave behind players, but we're only permitted to travel with 26 players. The players that stay behind will benefit from game time in the Currie Cup and will certainly be in the selection frame when we select the squad for the next leg of the Four Nations."

The players not travelling to Argentina, who were with the Boks last week, are flank Siya Kolisi and flyhalf Elton Jantjies.

The 26-man Springbok squad for Argentina:

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Andries Bekker, Craig Burden, Pat Cilliers, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Dean Greyling, Juandré Kruger, Tiaan Liebenberg, Tendai Mtawarira, Jacques Potgieter, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe.

Backs: Jean de Villiers (captain), JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak.

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