South Africa Rugby
Van der Linde questions Du Plessis omission
June 6, 2009
Springboks prop CJ van der Linde will have an operation on his injured foot next week © Getty Images
Injured Springboks prop CJ van der Linde has expessed his concern at the Springboks' lack of depth at tight-head prop.
The Leinster No.3, capped 56 times by South Africa, believes skipper John Smit will more than hold his own in the forthcoming Test series against the British & Irish Lions but has questioned the decision to leave Jannie du Plessis out of the squad that will take on the tourists in a three-Test series that kicks off in Durban on June 20.
Smit led South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory in 2007 as a hooker but was switched to tight-head on the Springboks' end of season tour to accomodate the in-form Bismarck du Plessis. But Smit's ability to anchor the scrum has the subject of intense debate with former Springboks coach Nick Mallett suggesting it is a weakness that could be exploited by the Lions.
"I think John [Smit] is more than capable of standing his ground at tight-head," said the 28-year-old Rugby World Cup winner whose own season has been blighted by a toe injury.
"My only concern is the back-up in that position, which I think is Deon Carstens. It's nothing against Deon because he is a great player but I think a guy like Jannie du Plessis would be a better back-up that Deon."
Smit's value as an inspirational skipper is also a key factor according to Van der Linde. "That's a big thing for us," he said, "like Richie McCaw with the All Blacks, if he's not playing the guys do not seem to play that well. So he definitely has to be in the side and if that means playing tight-head then so be it."
Van der Linde's hopes of extending his own impressive international career are in the balance with the prop set to undergo surgery on his injured toe in Pretoria on June 12.
"If it doesn't attach then we've got a problem," added Van der Linde referring to the ligament in question, "but the surgeon is very hopeful."
After a high-profile switch to the Magners League province last summer Van der Linde was limited to just seven appearances last season and is keen to return to fitness and repay the support he has had from the Dublin-based side.
"When it's your first season there you want to make your mark, obviously the injury is a set back, but the guys have looked after me really well and I'm just looking forward to playing a full season after the surgery."
Van der Linde is keen to add to his international caps but was aware his decision to move overseas jeopardised that wish.
"As far as I know they can pick three overseas guys but they don't like to have to pick overseas guys," he said, "but I knew that was the case when I moved. Obviously it would be nice to play for the Springboks again. It's up to me to play well then they will pick me which would be great."
Van der Linde will be a frustrated observer for the eagerly-awaited Test series with the Lions and insists that the Springboks, tipped widely for a clean sweep in the series with the Lions, will not be taking the tourists lightly.
"It is the same as '97, everyone said the Springboks would win, I don't think the Springboks will take it for granted. It will be a hard fought Test series against the Golden Lions you saw what the Lions are capable of s it will be a good series."