Jon Cardinelli

Botha out for two months


Arno Botha sustained a serious knee injury in Saturday's clash against Scotland and will be out of action for at least two months, reports JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit.

The injury occurred in the fifth minute of the Test at the Mbombela Stadium. After being taken from the field, the flanker was replaced by debutant Siya Kolisi.

After the game, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer confirmed that Botha's injury was serious and that he could be sidelined for some time.

'I really feel for Arno, he had a great game last week against Italy, but now it looks like he will be out for at least eight weeks,' said Meyer. 'We will have a closer look at the injury in the next few days, but it looks like he's done his cruciate ligament.

'That is unfortunately the nature of Test rugby, and when one guy goes down, the next guy has to stand up. In that respect, I feel Siya did very well tonight.'

The Boks are already missing several loose forwards due to injuries. Willem Alberts has missed the past two matches with a side strain, while Duane Vermeulen (knee) will only be back for the Rugby Championship in August.

Francois Louw was made unavailable for Saturday's Test in Nelspruit, as he is getting married on Sunday. The good news is that Louw will rejoin the Bok squad next week, and his return for the series decider against Samoa could be a timely one.

While Meyer was pleased with Kolisi's debut performance, he felt the Boks underperformed at the breakdown. Scotland dominated the collisions and were the better team in the first half with regards to adapting to referee Romain Poite's interpretation of the tackle laws. 

'Our breakdown work needs to improve,' the Bok coach said emphatically.

South Africa beat Scotland 30-17 thanks to an improved second-half performance, and while Meyer said he was satisfied with the result, he believes that the team must sharpen up.

Aside from that, Meyer said he was pleased to see his relatively inexperienced team coming through a testing clash.

'There was huge pressure on us when Arno went down, suddenly we had to send Siya on. Then we were under pressure when Scotland were 17-6 up, and [captain] Jean de Villiers did a great job to rally the team and eventually win 30-17.

'I'm not happy with the way we played in the first half, but it was good to know that we could bounce back and grind out a win. This team has really improved. If this had happened to us last year, I think we would have lost a game like that. So I'm happy with the composure that was shown and that a number of youngsters also stood up.

'We will gain more from a game like this than a game where we ran in a lot of tries,' Meyer continued. 'We can learn more from this performance.'

De Villiers wasn't happy with the performance either, but felt the Boks had passed another character test. The Bok skipper praised his charges when they beat Italy 44-10 in Durban last week, and while the flow of the game in Nelspruit was very different, De Villiers chose to highlight the composure of this side.

'I agree with Heyneke when he says that we would have lost this type of game last year,' he said. 'I'm proud of the character the side showed tonight.'

Kolisi living the dream: A look-back on the rise of the young flanker, with Jon Cardinelli

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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