Boks sweating over Steyn
The Springbok team suffered a setback on Monday as one of their key players, midfielder Frans Steyn, rolled his ankle in practice and is in doubt for Saturday’s Castle Rugby Championship match against Australia.
Steyn was immediately sent for X-rays at a local hospital, which came back clear, but there is a concern about the amount of swelling on his ankle, and the midfielder was seen visibly uncomfortable at the team’s practice session at Loftus Versfeld on Monday afternoon, hobbling around on crutches to keep pressure off the ankle.
While the team doctor Craig Roberts doesn’t seem overly concerned about Steyn’s injury, there is a wait-and-see attitude to the amount of swelling and a decision is likely to be taken later in the week.
If Steyn’s injury flares up or does not react to treatment, it could leave the Boks with a rethink in the backline, where they will have to change the composition of the attack with Steyn normally such a massive part of marshalling the backline.
Steyn was one of six players who missed out on training, although Dr Roberts believes it’s more a case of managing the niggles than any real injury. But Steyn’s injury was the key focus point for the team.
“The big disappointment for us was really Frans Steyn, who rolled his ankle during the first five minutes of our training session this morning,” Dr Roberts said.
“We’ve taken him for X-rays and those are clear, but we will have to make a decision on his availability, depending on how he responds to treatment. We will make a call a little bit later. He is the one concern from the weekend and we’re giving him every opportunity, so hopefully he will be ready tomorrow or Wednesday.”
Considering the stature of Steyn in the backline, and the selection poser at flyhalf, it didn’t help that young Johan Goosen missed out on half of the session and then joined in barefoot thanks to a bruised left heel. Luckily for Goosen the bruise is on his planting foot, and not on the kicking foot he uses so prodigiously.
However, it did mean that coach Heyneke Meyer wasn’t able to train him with the squad as he would have liked, and how this will affect his thoughts when it comes to selection is anyone’s guess.
"I thought after a week off we could have a hard training session with all 30 players,” Meyer said. “There were a few attacking things we wanted to put in, but there are a few injuries, a few from the Currie Cup and one or two from this morning's training session.”
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However, Meyer was confident after watching the Dunedin test again, which underlined his belief that had the kicking at posts been better, the Boks would have beaten the World Champions on their own turf. That said, he has raised the bar and expects a better performance at home from his players.
“We always play well at home. If you look at the past as well. We don’t have a great record in this competition, but I’ve got good a good feeling about this game. I’ve watched the game in Dunedin again and went through the game stats with the players and we were ahead in both possession and territory. And, believe it or not, we kicked seven kicks less than the All Blacks. After watching the game again, we know we had a great game, we know we should have probably won it. By saying that though, I’m quite confident we will play well on Saturday, I’m not promising anything but this team is definitely developing and it’s great to be able to play at home.”
Goosen is favourite to start at flyhalf for the test, although there is a chance that Morne Steyn may be retained on his home ground. Either way, there needs to be clarity on Frans Steyn’s injury first before any decision will be taken.
“We had quite a busy morning. I didn’t think we’d have so many injuries after a week off and a few guys playing Currie Cup rugby. We have some little niggles that we need to manage today. Those include Coenie Oosthuizen, who has some general stiffness, which can be expected after not playing for a while,” Dr Roberts added.
Jacques Potgieter has a mild groin strain, while winger Lwazi Mvovo didn’t train because he has a tight hamstring. Also on the sidelines was Flip van der Merwe (mild calf strain) to round out the six players that missed the training session.
Because of the lack of numbers, the Boks asked a number of SA under-20 players from the Bulls to join in training and make up the numbers, providing some good experience for the youngsters.
Dr Roberts was downplaying the injury concerns, but did admit Steyn’s ankle was the main worry. Still, the team doctor would have felt a lot better with no players down on the sidelines.
“That’s six guys down but the rest of the guys, we are quite happy with. They had a high intensity training session today and so far so good. I wouldn’t want six guys on the side of the field, but that is what we had to deal with today.
“It’s more management of niggles and it’s early in the week, so it is more managing the guys so they can play on Saturday. “