IN 2011, the Springboks took players who had not quite recovered from injury — such as Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez and Jannie du Plessis — to the World Cup in New Zealand, much to their peril.
In that tournament Botha was unavailable for the opener against Wales and was soon forced to return home after aggravating his Achilles injury, having played only against Fiji and Namibia.
That risk, team doctor Craig Roberts assured, would not be taken this year.
Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein earlier in the Super Rugby competition.
He will be given ample time to recover from the knee injury. But he will only be in line to be selected if he has recovered sufficiently and has had game time by the time the 31-man World Cup squad is announced at the end of August.
However, fellow second-rower Lood de Jager, who broke his elbow in the Cheetahs’ first game looks set to get some match time before Super Rugby comes to a close.
But Roberts admitted his anxiety grew with every weekend of rigorous Super Rugby action, as there may not be enough time for anyone who gets seriously injured at this point to make it on to the aircraft to the UK in September.
"We are going to give Pieter-Steph as much time as we can," the doctor said. "He’s had some good weeks and bad ones, which you get with that sort of injury, but it is premature to make a call on him now.
"It will obviously be the coach’s decision, when he selects his final squad, as to when the cut-off date will be for players to recover from injuries.
"At the moment, we’ve still got quite a bit of time. Everyone is still in contention to make it to the World Cup. Obviously injuries come and go.
"If we pick up a nasty knee injury now, the timeframes are too short to recover. The closer we get to the World Cup, with the guys still playing, that’s when I start getting nervous.
"But so far there is no one that I can categorically say won’t be at the World Cup.
"It is difficult because every time you go into a game there is the risk of injury, but you cannot go into the World Cup not having played. Rugby is about exposure — every time you go onto the field there is that injury risk. We can’t do a lot about that. We do try to prevent injuries."
More than half of the 44 players called up to the Springboks’ first training camp of the year in Johannesburg were unable to take part in full training on Monday due to injury.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was anxious about the lock and inside centre spots following injuries to Du Toit and De Jager as well as Flip van der Merwe’s sudden withdrawal from international selection.
Adding to his grey hairs was Bulls centre Jan Serfontein’s struggles with a hip niggle, which isn’t the kind of news the coach wants to hear considering captain and centre Jean de Villiers is also still out injured.
"I am a little bit concerned about Jan Serfontein’s hip flexor. I’ve been in contact with the Bulls about it," Roberts said. "We are looking at the nature of the injury and why he is struggling as he is.
"But he is having further investigation just to make sure we are managing it appropriately," Roberts added.