Boks 'could find silver linings' from injuries

Benn Robinson of the Wallabies is tackled by Victor Matfield (L) and Marcel van der Merwe during The Rugby Championship match between the South African Springboks and the Australian Wallabies at Newlands Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Cape Town.

Benn Robinson of the Wallabies is tackled by Victor Matfield (L) and Marcel van der Merwe during The Rugby Championship match between the South African Springboks and the Australian Wallabies at Newlands Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Cape Town.

Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG – The Springboks will go into today's Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Australia at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane with young and inexperienced players.

The Boks have been plagued by injuries for several months, which has been a headache for coach Heyneke Meyer.

The long injury list will influence Meyer's selection for this year's Rugby World Cup in England.

"The injuries mean Heyneke Meyer is going to have to field some young, inexperienced players in key positions – like Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel in midfield, Cobus Reinach as reserve scrumhalf, Warren Whiteley at eighthman, Lood de Jager as reserve lock and young back-up props," said rugby analyst Ken Borland.

"Instead of being able to groove his first-choice World Cup team, Meyer will have to blood players as well as using the Rugby Championship to get players back on the field and fit."

Borland, however, said the injuries were not a crisis for South Africa.

"There is a silver lining, however, in that the back-up players are gaining valuable experience before the World Cup – you’d rather have the injuries now when there’s still time for key players to get fit, than just before the tournament."

The 31-strong team has received a clean bill of health.

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said all the players in the squad were available for Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies.

"In any game you play, there is always the risk of injuries, as it’s about exposure and to be honest, I was a bit concerned about our match against the World XV last Saturday. It came after two very big training weeks and we were bringing back a few players from injury, but we got through it with flying colours."

After recovering from injuries Pat Lambie, Lood de Jager and Cobus Reinach are all in the Bok squad while Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn remain on the injured list.

Head coach Heyneke Meyer looks on during the South Africa Springboks captain's run at Northgate Playing Field on July 17, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

How will the Boks fare?

The All Blacks are the favourites to win the Rugby Championships, with most of their first-choice players fit and on-form.

"But the Springboks do have two of their three games at home and the extra energy provided by the new faces, as well as the pressure on the old guard to perform, could see them push New Zealand hard," Borland said.

The Boks have won just four times in Australia.

Times Media sports reporter, Sibusiso Mjikeliso, who's in Brisbane, said the Boks' chances are slim.

"(Afrter) New Zealand's demolition of Argentina on Friday, I'd say the Bok chances of winning the Rugby Championship are less than 50 percent. If they beat Australia in Brisbane (a big if, because they've only ever won here once and only four times in Australia in the last 20 years) then the decider will be their game against the All Blacks at Ellis Park next Saturday," said Mjikeliso.

"The 10-12-13 backline axis of Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel is very inexperienced and they are going up against Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau. Giteau alone has 92 caps. Also, Australia are fielding their most experienced team ever (1,023 caps in the total match 23). Genia and Cooper are a devastating combo but haven't started together for the Wallabies since 2013. Giteau hasn't played a test since 2011.

"That said, Michael Cheika (Australia coach) made an error in not picking David Pocock to start, he has a mental edge over the Boks. Think 2011 Rugby World Cup...(A) very even contest expected."

Injury list for the Boks:

Fourie du Preez tore medial collateral ligaments in his knee

Duane Vermeulen requires surgery on a neck injury

Pieter-Steph du Toit has a knee injury

Willem Alberts has an ankle injury

Frans Steyn has a torn pectoral muscle

Teams for Brisbane

Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), James Slipper. Replacements: Tatau Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Drew Mitchell.

South Africa: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield (captain), Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo.

- Donald Lobelo