Rassie Erasmus doesn’t believe there were any nefarious forces that prevented Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn from joining the Springbok squad ahead of the three-Test series against England, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.
It was revealed on Wednesday that the Montpellier duo had been withdrawn from the squad as a result of injuries sustained during the French Top 14 final.
However, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to do the rounds, which questioned the true nature of the previously unsuspected injuries and whether there weren’t some other factors at play in preventing Du Plessis and Steyn from being released.
After all, Erasmus had said on Monday that they were expecting the experienced pair to arrive mid-week based on the assumption that they would come through their exit medicals, while there has been a history of French clubs looking to hang on to their players through any means necessary.
Speaking at a press conference at the Bok base in Johannesburg on Thursday, Erasmus said his understanding was that both players were indeed battling with niggles that would delay their availability for too long.
‘Of course, we wanted them to join up with the squad as we hoped to add their experience to the group, and for them to be able to rub shoulders with some of the youngsters. However, the information we’ve received is that they have got small niggles, and still have to wait for the full results of the scans they’ve gone for.
‘Unfortunately, with a lack of clarity over the injuries and their arrivals set to be delayed, it was becoming beyond the point to keep waiting for them.’
Erasmus also reiterated there was no question over the commitment and desire of the duo to play for the Boks again.
‘I have made contact with the players, and there are definite injury problems. Of course, they are getting paid by their clubs, who want their players to be fully fit for the next season, but there is no doubt about their commitment. They are both desperate to play for the Boks, but unfortunately this situation is what it is. We have to do what is to the benefit of the players, club and to us.’
The Bok coach added that it was unlikely they would call up any replacements for the Montpellier pair.
‘We’ll see how we go this weekend, and whether there are any injuries. Last Saturday, we saw how some guys struggled, and how some really performed [against Wales]. So we’ll take things like injuries and form into consideration, and will make a definite call later on [if we want to call up any replacements], but at this stage, I don’t think so.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 7, 2018
Photo: Alexandre Dimou/Getty Images