Wallabies query Boks' injury toll
ESPNscrum Staff
July 8, 2011
John O'Neill, player portrait, July 18, 2008
O'Neill is seeking reassurances from SANZAR in the wake of South Africa's extensive casualty list © Getty Images

Australian Rugby Union chief John O'Neill has urged SANZAR to investigate South Africa's recent announcement that 21 of their players will miss the opening leg of this year's Tri-Nations due to injury.

The Springboks revealed an extensive casualty list earlier this week with a host of their leading players including vice-captain Victor Matfield, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, fly-half Butch James and winger Bryan Habana set to sit out the forthcoming clashes with Australia (July 23) and New Zealand (July 30).

As a result only a handful of first-choice players are available for selection in the Tri-Nations squad to be named on Saturday with critics alleging it is an attempt by the South African Rugby Union to rest their top talent ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup.

South Africa took a similar approach ahead of the 2007 World Cup, that they went on to win, with their policy questioned by their southern hemisphere rivals. All three countries have since signed an agreement that ensures they do not damage any of its competitions through fielding weakened teams and it is on this point that O'Neill has urged SANZAR to act.

"The difference between 2007 and now is that we now have a permanent SANZAR office with a CEO, who has the job of monitoring and policing such matters," O'Neill told the Sydney Morning Herald. "He [Greg Peters] will be following up on this announcement.

"A couple of weeks ago we had rumours coming out of the Republic that they may be sending an understrength team. We received assurances at the time that the only players not included would be genuinely injured.

"We have a joint venture agreement and a broadcasting agreement, and it is important that the three countries don't just comply with the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the contract. Joint ventures rely on people acting honourably and consistently."

O'Neill said he was surprised at the extent of the Springbok injury list. "We're not in a position to second-guess the Springboks, and we also have our share of injured players. But it is nowhere near 21. The sheer size of the number of players who are injured is unusual," O'Neill said.

"That's why we have asked for assurances. Regardless of what South Africa does, our preparation for the World Cup starts now, and the integrity of the Tri-Nations series is critically important."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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