Cardiff — Hooker Malcolm Marx has been restored to fitness and is likely to play a leading role in the Springboks achieving their ambition to finish the year on a high against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Marx‚ who missed last weekend’s clash against Italy due to the shoulder injury he suffered against France‚ is raring to go, according to the team’s doctor, Konrad von Hagen.
Although Bongi Mbonambi deputised with some distinction in his absence against Italy in Padua‚ coach Allister Coetzee stressed that he would assemble his best available troops for the occasion on Saturday.
Although the match is outside the official Test window‚ which means neither side are able to realistically push their best troops into battle‚ Coetzee is taking this seriously.
With that in mind, he will hope that Tendai Mtawarira recovers from the injury he sustained against Italy.
But they have to play a waiting game‚ even with Thomas du Toit being called up as cover.
"Mtawarira has a groin strain and we will give him as much time as possible to see if he’ll be available for the weekend. We will make that call as we go along‚" Von Hagen said.
Coetzee will also have Elton Jantjies available after his Japanese club the Shining Arcs granted permission for him to stay. "It is good to have him‚" said Coetzee‚ which is probably code for Jantjies being on the bench.
Coetzee’s many detractors will argue that the game against Wales should be an opportunity to blood young players. But the coach is with his back to the wall and is likely to go with as many battle-hardened players as he can.
The same folks who are calling for him to go with the young guns are ready to pounce should they misfire.
It is for that reason that the Bok coach was coy when Coetzee was pressed about outside back Warrick Gelant’s prospects of earning a start.
"He’s an exciting player‚" he said. "To my knowledge the roof will be closed this weekend. It would be a nice pitch to play on. Warrick is best in dry conditions. Who knows, he might find himself in the mix."
Still‚ it will be difficult to plug the significant holes left by Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw. Coetzee did not want to dwell on something over which he has little control.
"Louw with 56 or so caps‚ Vermeulen with late 30s, that is valuable experience. And both of them play in Europe.
"That is part of the leadership. We will miss them. They made their mark. It was great to have them. I’m sure a player like Dan du Preez has learnt a lot.
"Also Uzair Cassiem and Oupa Mohoje.
"Hopefully if they get an opportunity they take it."
The coach would not be drawn on speculation of Wales No8 Toby Falotau’s availability for the Test. Like Louw‚ Falotau plays for Bath.
"I just follow regulation 9 and how we understand it, Francois is definitely not available for us. I can’t comment on the internal arrangement up in the north.
"If there is an internal agreement, I don’t know about that."
The Springbok management again rested players for Monday’s practice. End-of-year tours take bodies to the brink and the careful management of workloads become imperative.
"We have adapted a few things this year‚" said Von Hagen. "The way we trained and the way we recover.
"We try and train in the way we play. We actually got to a situation where we try and get them to train less. It’s funny because it sounds like we are going soft on them."