SA Rugby won’t push for the release of Francois Louw despite reports that Wales are looking to secure Taulupe Faletau’s release from the same English club. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
The final Test of 2017 will be staged outside of the World Rugby-sanctioned window. Players based at overseas clubs aren’t supposed to be available for national selection at this stage of the season.
However, word on the ground here in Cardiff is that Faletau, Owen Williams, Tomas Francis, Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts haven’t been ruled out of contention just yet.
Late on Monday, there still appeared to be some confusion over which of these England-based players are available to face the Boks, and which will feature for their clubs in the Premiership this coming weekend.
The Boks would have every reason to feel aggrieved if Faletau was cleared to play for Wales this Saturday. Louw has already returned to Bath – where he and the Welsh No 8 play in the same back row – and will not be available for a Test in Cardiff that South Africa desperately need to win.
Coetzee has hailed the influence of Louw and Duane Vermeulen in recent weeks. On Monday, he admitted that the two veteran loose forwards would be missed. Vermeulen has returned to French club Toulon and so will miss the Test in Cardiff.
The Bok coach was bullish when asked about his future with the side. He laughed off the report that he has already secured another job with a club side in Japan.
When it was put to him that Faletau and Louw play for the same English club, and that Faletau may indeed play in a Test staged outside of the international window, Coetzee suggested it was a matter for World Rugby to sort out.
‘We will follow Regulation 9 [regarding the release of players at overseas clubs] and how we understand it,’ he said. ‘Francois Louw is not available for us.
‘I cannot comment on the internal arrangements up in the north. I don’t know if there are agreements up here. Regulation 9 is Regulation 9 as far as I’m concerned.’
That said, the inclusion of Louw, and Vermeulen for that matter, would certainly have increased the Boks’ chances of adding a third win to their tour tally. Wales boast a fierce reputation at the breakdown and on defence.
As it is, the Boks will go into the clash in Cardiff with yet another new untried loose-trio combination. Siya Kolisi has returned from paternity leave, and should replace Louw at openside. Pieter-Steph du Toit could be retained at No 7, while Dan du Preez looks set to move from the bench to No 8 to replace Vermeulen.
The Boks trained in wet and cold conditions at Cardiff Arms Park on Monday. Du Toit was among a group of players who watched the session from the stands.
The Bok medical team has confirmed that Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw and Handré Pollard will be managed during the initial stages of the week. Beast Mtawarira, however, is battling with a groin injury and is unlikely to play.
Coetzee feels that the players have progressed with regards to their fitness in 2017. Team doctor Konrad von Hagen said that the Boks would be up to the physical task this Saturday in a match played some nine months after the start of the Super Rugby season.
‘We’ve adapted a few things this year, the way we train and the way we recover,’ Von Hagen said.
‘There’s definitely been a difference this year. I don’t think there should be any concern over this being the last game of our season. There shouldn’t be any concern about the players being less fit now than when they started [in the series against France in June].
‘A lot of the guys have actually improved, and there’s been a push to maintain fitness levels across the board.’
The Boks may miss the experience and class of Louw and Vermeulen on Saturday. That said, they cannot use inferior fitness or the challenge of a long season as an excuse for a poor performance.
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