The injury to Rudy Paige could compromise the Boks’ backline composition for this Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks at Kings Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.
Paige received due praise from Allister Coetzee following Saturday’s encounter with the Wallabies. Despite the fact he had enjoyed less than 20 minutes of game time since the start of the season, the 27-year-old acquitted himself well in his first Test start at scrumhalf.
At a time when the Boks are looking to add more pragmatism to their play, Paige carried out the basics well, was brave on defence, and appeared to complement Morné Steyn in a new-look halfback pairing.
Unfortunately for the Springboks, Paige took a heavy knock to the head during the second half of the Loftus Test, and looked extremely groggy afterwards. The medical report suggests he will now need to pass the prescribed graduate return-to-play protocol, but a concussion such as that generally requires at least a week to overcome.
It will be a concern for the Boks in more ways than one. Should Paige fail to recover in time, the least disruptive move may just be to bring Faf de Klerk straight back into the scrumhalf berth, but it was his erratic performances that saw him dropped from the match 23 in the first place.
The other option could be to shift Francois Hougaard from wing to scrumhalf – as was the case on Saturday – but this would leave the Boks considerably short of options on the wing.
As it is, veteran winger Bryan Habana is in some doubt after suffering a knock to the knee on Saturday, while Jesse Kriel – who can cover wing – is another player who is suffering from a worrying injury (hamstring strain).
Willie le Roux had to do a job on the wing against the Wallabies on Saturday (as did flanker Jaco Kriel bizarrely), and last week Coetzee said he was confident that Le Roux could cover this position if need be, but it’s hardly an ideal scenario.
The Boks may well need to call up a winger, but an obvious candidate such as Durban-based Lwazi Mvovo recently had to undergo an emergency appendix operation and will not be available.
It would be a good move for the Boks to recall veteran winger JP Pietersen from Leicester, but should he receive an SOS, it remains to be seen when he would be able to join the camp.
Coetzee is set to provide an injury update at midday on Monday. The Boks would have woken up to overcast and rainy conditions in Durban, and forecasts suggest it could also be a wet-weather affair on Saturday.
This should play a part in the Boks’ planning and player selection for their all-important final Rugby Championship encounter with the undefeated All Blacks, who are set to recall first-choice scrumhalf Aaron Smith for this clash.
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