Springboks say logistics behind squad split, star winger ruled out of Johannesburg Test

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Springboks forwards coach Matt Proudfoot says logistic demands are the key factor behind the team's decision to effectively split their squad into two for their opening Rugby Championship Tests.

The Springboks take on the Wallabies in Johannesburg on Sunday morning (AEST) before travelling to New Zealand to take on the All Blacks a week later in Wellington.

Because of the length of the trip, the Springboks are set to send up to 15 players to New Zealand before this weekend's opener and coach Rassie Erasmus admitted over the weekend that players who were clearly the first-choice in their position would be among that group.

"There are four or five positions where you can say this guy is a clear cut first choice. Those guys will probably go to New Zealand next week," he said at the time.

Proudfoot said that choice was forced by the tournament schedule, with the fact that both Australia and South Africa are travelling back at the same time complicating things.

Malcolm Marx will start for the Springboks this weekend. Photo: Getty Images"There's been a lot of talk about the selection of the squad," he said.

"What you must understand is the draw - our second game is New Zealand away from home. If we get on a flight on Sunday, we only get to new Zealand on Tuesday so we had to take that approach that we need to get guys in New Zealand before Tuesday.

"Australians have first choice on the flights heading east so it means we can only fly on Sunday.

"With the draw and the competition, it's necessitated the way we've picked this team and how we've picked it.

We've just got to take game for game and the players we've got, we've challenged, we've put a focus on Australia and it's just because of the logistical challenges of travelling 12 time zones east that we've had to look at our selection policies."

Proudfoot said only that the advance party would depart "later in the week". 

While they might be splitting their group over the first fortnight, the Springboks' first focus is winning at home against the Wallabies, who have already been in South Africa for over a week in preparation for Sunday morning's clash (AEST).

Proudfoot said that decision was a "wise" move from the Aussies to try and adjust to the altitude in Johannesburg.

Australia hasn't beaten South Africa on the highveld, a 2010 win in Bloemfontein, but with their South African fixture usually coming in the middle of the Rugby Championship, an extended period in the region hasn't generally been an option.

"I think traditionally if you look at - take the last two years, three years of the Australia-South Africa game in the championship it's always been a very tight game, it's been a game with a very high ball in play component, probably one of the highest ball in plays that we played this season was against Australia,"  he said.

"They're a very fit side, I expect that was part of their planning to utilise the time in South Africa as their preseason camp to gain the advantage of training at altitude so I think they've been very wise in that but I think so have we - we've spent four weeks here so we've got a plan and we're looking to implement that plan."

The Springboks were dealt an injury blow earlier on Monday local time with winger Aphiwe Dyantyi ruled out of the start of the tournament with a hamstring injury.

Dyantyi suffered the injury in training last Friday and has gone back to his club the Lions to rehab the injury.

The winger has quickly become one of international rugby's most exciting talents and his loss will be a big blow for the Springboks at Ellis Park.

Dyantyi played 13 Tests in his debut international season last year, notching six tries across those matches, including five from his six Rugby Championship matches.

He followed up on that form in Super Rugby this season,  scoring six tries from 14 games in a difficult year for the Lions.

The Springboks offered no timeframe for the winger's return after the injury but said they would not be calling up a replacement for Dyantyi ahead of this weekend's Test.

Proudfoot said on Monday they were confident they had the cattle to cover Dyantyi's absence.

"We're confident with the guys we've got here will be able to do that job," he said.

"We've got four very good wingers currently in camp so we're comfortable we have ample in that capacity.

"Aphiwe got injured on Friday in training. He injured his hamstring - he will see the specialist today to get an update on that.

"He'll be out for the start of the Championship and what the specialist advises on his preparation, we'll then phase him back later through the Championship but he'll definitely be out for the start."

Siya Kolisi. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Springboks will certainly have a captaincy change in Johannesburg with Siya Kolisi missing the tournament with injury but Proudfoot said they had options to replace the Stormers skipper.

"What's been pleasing through Super Rugby is to see how many franchise captains are in the squad," he said.

"There's a lot of captains that have been captains and been leaders for their franchises so I think now it falls on somebody else's shoulder to take that mantle going forward until Siya's ready.

"We've been really pleased with the way he's coming back and progressively working so he's been around us for quite some time so he hasn't been gone."

South Africa hosts the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship Test at Ellis Park on Saturday July 20, kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo Sports.