Schalk Burger has shared his concerns that the Springboks could be going into the Test series against the British & Irish Lions shy of matches and will miss influential No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Burger was speaking to the Daily Mail in an interview where he recalled his own experiences of facing the Lions as part of the Springbok side that won the previous series in 2009.
Due to the unique challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Springboks will go into the series having faced Georgia once and then playing against the British & Irish Lions and the Bulls as South Africa A.
The second Test against Georgia was called off to a Covid-19 outbreak in both camps and while some of the first-choice Springboks were able to make up for that game time while playing for the SA A team, some players – like captain Siya Kolisi and prop Frans Malherbe – will go into the series, which starts next Saturday, having played just that one Test.
“I don’t doubt that the Boks will be super competitive, but I’m scared for them not being Test-match savvy and sharp when the pressure comes on,” Burger told the Daily Mail.
Burger was also concerned that the Springboks will be without Vermeulen as the No 8 continues his recovery from surgery on the ankle injury he suffered while playing for the Bulls.
According to director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, Vermeulen stands an “outside chance” of being involved in the third Test, but that’s not something the Springboks are banking on.
However, Burger does take hope from the Springbok’ set-piece dominance, something he says could be influential throughout the series.
“Not a lot has been said in the buildup about the scrum and, for me, that is going to be the main area of contention either way.
“If we dominate the scrum, the Lions will be struggling. We have two phenomenal front rows and the scrum is such a big part of the Boks’ psyche. They will be patient. Even if it takes 60 or 70 minutes to gain that ascendancy, they will be going for it.”
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