Boks weather storm in NZ
THE SPRINGBOK team for Saturday's test against New Zealand in Dunedin was as difficult to predict as the capricious weather here yesterday.
With Eben Etzebeth already ruled out due to suspension, props Jannie du Plessis and Pat Cilliers, as well as centre Jean de Villiers and wing Francois Hougaard all sat on the sidelines as sun, rain and wind made for tough practice conditions for their teammates at the Ponsonby Rugby Club.
There is still concern for Du Plessis' fitness after he injured his hamstring against the Wallabies. He is expected to be declared fit, while Cilliers' participation is also in doubt.
With two props carrying injuries, the Springbok management decided to have Stormers prop Frans Malherbe join the squad to provide cover.
"Frans's call-up is purely precautionary as our two tighthead props on tour are struggling with injuries," said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
"Frans has been with us before and he knows our calls and moves. He's still young and has a bright future ahead of him."
Flip van der Merwe will replace Etzebeth, while talk of Bakkies Botha joining the squad as a reserve never got off the ground. At one point, Meyer was keen to reunite Botha with his former team-mates, but a lack of time and vast travelling distance conspired against the Toulon second-rower making the trip.
Meyer has much to mull over in selection before naming his squad today. He indicated earlier in the week that he would keep changes to the minimum, but his search for the right mix to ensure an improved performance and injuries may force his hand into cutting deeper than he intended.
If the match is of a quick tempo, as defence coach John McFarland expects, Meyer may need more than just cosmetic changes.
The match will be played indoors, which is a huge blessing as an Antarctic front descended upon the South Island yesterday.
"I think it will make it like a highveld game and make it very quick," said McFarland.
"I was there in April with the Bulls and it was suddenly a very quick game. It is a superb stadium to play in with a lot of noise and a clean environment, on a hard surface. I think it will suit us as much as it suits them."
While the Boks had to deal with four seasons in a day, the All Blacks were driven indoors in Dunedin due to the sleet and cold. They were scheduled to train at Carisbrook but sought refuge at the Barr stadium, the venue for Saturday's test.