I have always rated Bakkies, you can't just go there with an Under-21 side to take on the best in the world
There may be a surprise Springbok recall for French-based veteran lock Bakkies Botha following the latest injury woes in the squad.
Following midfielder Juan de Jongh's call-up for the on-form JP Pietersen who broke his thumb in the Super Rugby Final, coach Heyneke Meyer may be forced to make further changes to his squad with uncertainty hanging over lock Eben Etzebeth and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Team doctor Craig Roberts explained that Etzebeth will fly up to Johannesburg on Tuesday to see a specialist regarding a a hip cartilage tear he picked up in the Stormers' Super Rugby semifinal loss to the Sharks.
He said: "Eben Etzebeth injured his hip in the semifinal and he has got a cartilage tear in his hip. We have been investigating it and we are heading up to Johannesburg tomorrow [Tuesday] to see a specialist up there and get the call on the appropriate way to manage him short and long term.
"The other one is Chiliboy Ralepelle who has got a knee ligament sprain, he is in his final part of rehabilitation so at the moment he is not training with the squad, he is doing final phase rehab and we will make a call on him later in the week or perhaps early next week on his availability for the first Test," said Roberts.
Meyer explained that although he has not yet discussed the matter with the selectors he has a good idea of who he would like to call on if either forward is unavailable.
"This is not official because I haven't finalised it with the selectors but Tiaan Liebenberg and Craig Burden are two players that I rate and at lock Franco [Van der Merwe] has done well and a guy like Bakkies Botha has played great rugby.
"I haven't spoken to Bakkies recently but he is in good form and I have spoken to his agent so he is a guy there and there are one or two youngsters as well so those are the guys I will be looking at," he said.
The Bok coach said that given the lack of suitable candidates for the No.4 jersey currently playing in South Africa he may call on Botha if Etzebeth is in fact sidelined.
"I have always rated Bakkies, you can't just go there with an Under-21 side to take on the best in the world and Bakkies has played well and I have been looking at every single overseas player.
"I have always said that if it is 50/50 I will go for the South African-based player but if Eben is injured then suddenly there are not a lot of four locks around so I will definitely look at Bakkies as well.
"Franco [Van der Merwe] was also impressive when he trained with us but he is more of a five lock who can play four. There are one or two youngsters that have played well as well, it is a pity that Pieter-Steph [Du Toit] is injured because he is the type of guy I want to give a chance as well," he explained.
Pietersen will undergo surgery on Thursday which rules him out for six to eight weeks, but Meyer decided not to call up a replacement right wing like Gio Aplon, opting instead for De Jongh.
Meyer said that he had called on De Jongh as a replacement for Pietersen as the Sharks flyer had been his second choice outside centre behind Jean de Villiers and he is comfortable with the right wing cover currently in the squad.
He said: "I did think about Gio [Aplon] as well, he has been in the mix and he is a quality player, but if you look at it Lwazi [Mvovo] and Bryan [Habana] are there as the guys that will start and JJ Engelbrecht can cover wing as well and Francois Hougaard can cover wing.
"The problem was that JP Pietersen was the second outside centre, that is why Juan de Jongh didn't come into the mix right from the start and a guy like JJ Engelbrecht can play outside centre and wing, because you can only travel with 26 players you have to take that into consideration as well.
"With JJ aand Francois covering wing we have four wings but you now have a question mark at centre. I am really happy for Juan de Jongh, he has been close to the team so many times and he has played so well," added Meyer.
By Michael de Vries