Heyneke Meyer admits Frans Steyn's shock withdrawal from the Springbok squad has been a 'bit disruptive'.
Steyn on Tuesday left the squad for personal reasons, saying he needed time to reflect on his Bok future.
The 27-year-old has a chronic knee injury, which has seen him skip some Sharks practices during the week throughout this season, while still being a regular starter on match-day. Steyn, who is expected to train regularly with the Boks, has opted to skip the June Tests to give his body a break. He will then play for the Sharks again in Super Rugby, before joining his Japanese club. He will not be available for the Rugby Championship as a result.
Steyn started at 12 for the Boks against the World XV, when he may have expected to be rested or used off the bench, and has now been replaced with Jan Serfontein for the first Test against Wales at Kings Park.
Meyer said that while he had been taken by surprise by Steyn's decision to leave the squad, he still had the utmost respect for him.
'I have always had a great relationship with Frans, on and off the field,' Meyer told the media on Wednesday. 'I was one of the main figures [role players] in bringing him back to South Africa [from France in 2012].
'He is an unbelievable rugby player. I respect him as a rugby player and as a human being. Obviously I am disappointed that he is not available, but I understand that and I respect his decision.
'It has been tough with losing the captain and a lot of [other] changes … it's been a bit disruptive,' he added. 'You don't just lose five quality centres within the space of a week or week-and-a-half, but that is the challenge of the job. You plan for five months, you can't wait to get going and suddenly you get curve-balls from all over. We'll just get on with it and I believe in the players we have.
'As a [Bok] coach you don't have a lot of time, so when you have a squad of 30 and 35 you do have other guys training with the squad. You prepare for injuries and you prepare for the long-run as well.'
Meyer believes Serfontein will slot in seamlessly at 12 for the Boks on Saturday.
'Jan knows all the moves, he has trained with us and he has prepared well. He has played with Morné [Steyn], but he hasn't played with JP [Pietersen]. It will be a step-up there and he will have to work on his defence there.'
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images