Injuries rock 'Boks     26 Jun 2007

Springbok coach Jake White rested 20 top players and incited the anger of Australia as he chose a virtual second-string side to play in Sydney on July 7 against the Wallabies and Christchurch against New Zealand on July 14.

The weakened team has been hit by two further withdrawals as loose forwards AJ Venter and Luke Watson pulled out.

Venter announced his retirement from international rugby, thereby giving up a chance to go to the World Cup in France later this year.

Venter's place will be taken by Jacques Cronje, while Watson - who was controversially included by SA Rugby bosses earlier last month against the wishes of White - has withdrawn with a rib injury sustained in a Currie Cup game at the weekend.

His spot will be taken by Kabamba Floors, who starred in the Emerging Springboks' victory in the IRB Nations Cup in Romania two weeks ago.

The Springbok selectors also announced that the injury to wing Tonderai Chavhanga was not serious enough to keep him out of the tour.

Meanwhile, SA Rugby managing director Jonathan Stones has moved to quell criticism from Australia Rugby Union chairman Peter McGrath over the decision to field understrength teams for the Tri-Nations.

The Springbok selectors took the decision after watching the Boks run out of steam against New Zealand on Saturday, losing 26-21 after leading 21-12 at one stage.

"SA Rugby wants to reiterate and support the concerns raised by the Springbok coach Jake White, after the match on Saturday in Durban against the All Blacks," Stones said in a statement released by SA Rugby.

"In explaining the reasons for this team selection, White cited the extreme exhaustion suffered by his players as one of the major reasons why his team did not perform at its best during the last 15 crucial minutes of the match against New Zealand.

"This explanation is 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 Professor Tim Noakes.

"According to medical opinion, a large number of players were extremely exhausted as a result of a demanding five-week period of Test match rugby and an equally demanding [Rebel Sport] Super 14 competition.

Stones continued to explain that SA Rugby completed extensive medical tests before making the decision.

He said: "A total of nine players are now injured following the New Zealand and Australian matches, and given the status of these coupled with the fatigue of others, it would not have been advisable for management to allow these players to travel to Australasia.

"Based on medical, conditioning and scientific reports, SA Rugby therefore had no option other than to intervene in such a drastic manner.

"We are satisfied that the squad of 28 players represents the best available selection, boasting a number of players with substantial international experience.

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

The statement also included comments by Professor Tim Noakes, who is head of South Africa's Sports Sciences Institute.

"Our players have been playing high-impact rugby non-stop since February," he said.

"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."