WELLINGTON, New Zealand, July 27 – The Springboks arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday with coach Pieter de Villiers denying a South African report that 21 “so-called injured” players are in fact at a secret World Cup training camp.
“They are not training at the moment,” he said when told of the report that the 21 were holed up in Rustenberg with Springboks’ technical director Rassie Erasmus.
“So-called is not the right word to use. They’re injured players back in South Africa and there’s a few guys going back today too who are also injured.”
The reigning world champions play the current top ranked All Blacks here on Saturday, a week after their under-strength side were trounced 39-20 by the Wallabies in Sydney.
De Villiers said the injured players would be tested next week to see if they were fit enough to take part in South Africa’s two home Tri-Nations matches next month.
Among the key South Africans missing from the Australasian tour are Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana, while the All Blacks are likely to rest players who carried a heavy Super 15 workload.
They include half the first choice forward pack with Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn and Owen Franks unlikely to take the field, which de Villiers said was sensible.
“I think that they (New Zealand) know how to manage the players and the workload,” he said, adding that the revamped Super 15 season made the Tri-Nations a tough challenge in a World Cup year.
“The Tri-Nations is a good thing, it’s the best preparation you can get for the World Cup because the best teams in the world are there.
“But coming off the back of a long Super 15, it might just be a bit too harsh on the players,” he said.