British & Irish Lions
Injury woes stack up for Springboks
May 5, 2009
The Stormers' Conrad Jantjes receives treatment after breaking his leg against the Chiefs at the weekend © Getty Images
Conrad Jantjes leads a mounting injury list for South Africa ahead of next month's British and Irish Lions tour to the country.
The Stormers fullback, who was the main contender to wear the No.15 jersey for the Springboks, broke his leg during his side's Super 14 clash against the Chiefs at the weekend and has been ruled out for rest of the year.
"It is always upsetting when a player that is in the driving seat is injured," national coach Peter de Villiers said. "The loss of Conrad is a blow to us and especially for him as it rules him out for some time."
De Villiers is further hindered by the news that Jantjes' possible replacement Frans Steyn has been ruled out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury. The Sharks utility-back is set to undergo surgery today to correct the problem, meaning he faces a race against time to be fit for the first Test against the Lions on June 20.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers is another injury concern for his national coach after missing the past three weeks with a groin problem, with his expected return likely to come against the Cheetahs in the final match of the season.
Another key player for the Springboks in flanker Schalk Burger will miss the remaining two weeks of the season due to a calf injury. Several other players, including Fourie du Preez (calf), Adrian Jacobs (shoulder) and Andries Bekker (rib), are all carrying niggles ahead of the arrival of the Lions in just over three weeks' time.
De Villiers continued, "The Super 14 is a tough competition and we expected that injuries might impact on our selection for the Lions series. For that reason we never cast anything in stone even though there are players incumbent in certain positions who would in all likelihood be included in a starting XV.
"The fact that some of these players are currently beset by injury is a concern but I do not want to draw any conclusions until I have consulted with the respective medical teams and have a full understanding of the extent of each injury and the recovery prognosis.
"If we had picked our starting XV in March I would be concerned. But we agreed that we would take stock after the Super 14 and base our selection on the best available players in each position who we believe can take on the British and Irish Lions."
But national convener of selectors Peter Jooste seems more anxious about matters.
He told the Business Day, "It (the injury situation) is a big worry for us. Experience is important in a Test series against the Lions. What makes the situation worse is that the players are dropping as the international season draws closer.
"It is not only the possibility of injuries that is a concern for us in the next few weeks. Judging by the Super 14 log it seems as though our teams might have to travel in the semi-final stages and the teams they could come up against are physical, which makes it even tougher."