SA Rugby defends B-squad selection

Jonathan Stones, the managing director of SA Rugby – the commercial arm of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) – has defended the decision to rest the top Springboks during the remaining Tri-Nations clashes against Australia and New Zealand.

Citing scientific counsel taken from Professor Tim Noakes, Stones, along with national coach Jake White, has identified extreme exhaustion as the deciding factor in naming a second-string squad to travel to Australasia.

“Our guys have been playing week in week out since February and it has now caught up with them,” said White.

White had chosen to play mostly full-strength line-ups in the opening three Tests of the year against England and Samoa.

The Bok coach believes it is fatigue that cost the Springboks the match against New Zealand in Durban on Saturday after they faded badly in the last fifteen minutes to concede a nine-point lead.

The majority of the White’s starting line-up are comprised of Bulls and Sharks players who went straight from the Super 14 league phase into the semi-finals, final and then into five home Tests against England, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.

Stones says the outrage expressed by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has been noted “with concern”, but SA Rugby “wants to reiterate … the concerns raised by Springbok coach Jake White”.

The ARU has voiced anger after they said they were assured by SARU that a full-strength Bok squad would travel to their shores.

Not only does the selection threaten ticket sales, but also the prestige of the game itself in Australia, where Rugby Union is forced to compete with Rugby League and Aussie Rules.

Already Australia has had to suffer in that regard by the withdrawal of the top All Blacks from the majority of the Super 14.

Stones did not comment on the alleged agreement to send a full-strength side to Australia.

He did say that the selection decision “reinforced by scientific advice and medical evidence gathered by the SA Rugby and Springbok medical teams, who for the past four years have worked closely with the acclaimed sports physician Prof. Tim Noakes.”

Noakes, for his part, said: “Our players have been playing high-impact rugby non-stop since February.

“The majority played an extra semi-final and a demanding Super 14 Final, while the bulk of them joined the Springboks straight afterwards.

“It would have been irresponsible not to advise the coach to introduce a period of rest so that the injured can be treated and others recover, if he wanted these players to perform a meaningful role at the World Cup.”

Stones said that the fact that nine players were now injured, and that the others were suffering from fatigue, meant that SA Rugby had no choice but to “intervene in a drastic manner”.

“The 28-man squad represents the best available selection, boasting a number of players with substantial international experience,” he said.

“SA Rugby is confident that they have the ability to deliver quality performances against the Wallabies and New Zealand.”


365 Digital

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